Sporting Heroes: Craig Jarvis - how the years finally reeled in Steeler Dan

 

It’s been almost a year now since Craig Jarvis hung up his mask for the last time.

Sheffield Steelers, Great Britain’s most successful domestic ice hockey team of the last two decades, were founded in 1991 to take advantage of the newly built Sheffield Arena.

With sports teams tend to come a mascot. It is hard to trace the roots of this tradition, though many think it dates back to the 1908 Chicago Cubs baseball team, who used a stuffed bear cub as a good-luck charm.

Mascots in the UK and the US in modern times tend to be related to a sports team’s nickname or history in some way. They are seen as a very important part of a team’s interaction with young fans. Often dressed in large animal costumes, mascots circle stadiums, being photographed with fans and acting as a jovial cheerleader for the home team. In the US, mascots are often gifted gymnasts and stuntmen, who perform dangerous tricks and manoeuvres to delight the crowd at intervals in play.

Jarvis was the Steelers’ mascot from day one. Last March, after more than 21 years in the role, he retired. As “Steeler Dan”, a Sheffield steelworker, Jarvis entertained thousands of young sports fans over the years. Jarvis’s true identity was kept a secret until late in his career, but he did appear as the “voice of Steeler Dan” when he was forced to strike after a dispute between his sponsors and the team owner over who would pay for the cleaning of his costume.

It was Steeler Dan who took any plaudits and not Jarvis himself, as is the case with mascots worldwide. When the Steelers honoured him at his last match as Jarvis took his last bow, he was finally unmasked for all to see.

@ashersimons

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