|While some may think the Senators' young fans visit Scotiabank Place to see their heroes on the ice, a furry feline and the excitement surrounding him may suggest otherwise (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
He is the Ottawa Senators’ ambassador of fun and so much more.
While many fans know Spartacat for his game-night antics at Scotiabank Place, that’s only the beginning of this furry feline’s connection with the community. Whenever the Senators extend a helping hand to the city they call home, chances are Sparty’s paws are all over it, too.
Including Senators home games, Sparty averages almost an appearance per day each year on behalf of the organization. He says you shouldn’t be surprised if you cross paths with him at everything from school visits and “parades to family and corporate skates to birthday parties to lots of fundraisers.”
Sparty is also an integral part of the Scotiabank Read To Succeed program – top-achieving classes qualify for a chance to win a “Sparty Party,” which includes a classroom visit by the man, er, big cat himself. You’ll also find him front and centre as the star attraction of the Sparty’s Learn To Skate program offered at the Bell Sensplex.
“Spartacat performs over 300 appearances in the community each year for the Senators and provides a great connection to the team for fans of all ages,” said Jeff Kyle, the Senators VP of marketing. “He allows us to connect the Senators brand to many charities and community initiatives in a fan friendly and fun way.”
What you might find a little more difficult is the opportunity to have a lengthy chat with Sparty. He gets his best work done without words, you see.
“Very easy. A lot easier than people think,” he taps out on a computer when asked if it’s easy to stay so mum in the presence of all those excited youngsters that often surround him. “You can express yourself without talking, no problem. Just walk around with a smile on your face and you can’t get into trouble.”
Indeed, nothing delights Sparty more than the company of the Senators’ youngest fans. Then again, one might suggest he’s a rather large kid himself.
“Kids love to be silly and when someone is silly with them, they love that and it doesn’t make them feel like someone is looking down on them,” says Sparty.
Nothing tugs on Sparty’s tail – not to mention his big lion heart – more than the faces he sees during his many visits to places like the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and Roger’s House.
“If there’s any way I can walk into a room, just be smiling and do a couple of silly things and make someone’s day who’s going through so much… it’s my pleasure,” he said. “It’s happened that nurses have said ‘we couldn’t get them to smile for three days.’ When you hear stuff like that, it’s like ‘wow.’”
CHEO is so appreciative of the warmth and joy Sparty brings to all those tiny hearts that it presented him with the Order of the Good Bear a few years back. He also recently received the United Way Community Builder award for all the good he does on the Senators’ behalf. While Sparty is thankful for such accolades, it’s that regular chance to do a good deed in the name of the Senators that makes his day.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Sparty points out when he gets such reminders that he’s making a big difference. “Sometimes, you just don’t realize how much of an impact you can have on a child, a community or an organization.”Sparty is now on Twitter. Follow his antics at www.twitter.com/REAL_Spartacat