At the centre of every “Go Pats Go” at the Brandt Centre is a friendly red dog.
For 39 years, Rollie Bourassa has brought to life the Pats mascot, K9. He’s seen all around the rink banging his handheld drum to the beat and sliding down bannisters and posing for pictures on the concourse.
If you can believe it, he’s doing it all at 81 years young.
“It’s odd,” said Bourassa of people’s reactions to his antics. “It’s the first time they’ve been to a Pats game and they’ll see me sliding down the railing and then next morning they’re phoning the Pats office that their kids came home and slid down they’re bannister and they’d never done that before.”
But he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
“That’s what bannisters are made for,” he said.
Bourassa has been sliding down them for so long that when he started doing it K9 wasn’t red. In fact, the mascot wasn’t even named K9.
The Pats had a team mascot made up in 1978 and, because of an association with LaBatt’s, the team decided to call him “Blue.” That, of course, also matched what colour he was.
According to Bourassa, that mascot – with a long, pointy nose and beady eyes – was deemed too intense and not friendly enough for children.
Bourassa, a commercial artist working at CTV Regina, was called in to soften the mascot’s image. After he made his alterations, he stepped into the costume himself for a few games to make sure whoever was wearing it could easily move and see.
“I still use it as a joke that they said, ‘Can you do it for a couple of more games until we find someone?’ and they’re still looking,” Bourassa laughed.
Molson’s took over sponsorship years later and a new mascot was needed. Bourassa went to work again and that’s when the red K9 with the bright blue eyes and the Pats jersey was born.
Over the years, Bourassa has worked on many other mascots, including repairs and an entire remake of the Riders mascot, Gainer, and currently, he’s working on one for the Regina Police.
He doesn’t plan on stopping either.
“I’ve seen too many people who retired, they’re not around anymore.”
Plus, he’s still having a lot of fun and loves seeing the reaction he gets from young children.
“They come in the door all of the sudden they see this big red dog and their eyes light up and they come running to you for a big hug.”
“It’s just fun going there, the little kids and the moms and dads and I spend most of my time on the concourse having pictures taken. I don’t see much of the game,” he laughed.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how good the Pats have been, or noticed the overall improvement in the team since the new ownership group took over. Bourassa, after all, has seen a lot of owners come and go.
“I think that’s a lot to do with why I’m still here. This ownership and the team and the coaching and the attitude of the staff it’s just remarkable, unbelievable,” he said. “I just thank God I’m part of the Pats family.”
Forty years ago, Bourassa never thought he’d spent almost half his life as a hockey mascot, but now he says he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It’s been ridiculous, but it’s also very rewarding and very fun.”