MONTREAL Que. (Rutters) — Fans of the Montreal Canadiens reacted with shock and consternation Tuesday morning when General Manager Bob Gainey announced the beloved team mascot, Youppi, had been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Eric Shun, Youppi’s manager. “He gave so much to this city.”
The surprise move was leaked to the media late Monday night, after weeks of secret negotiations. Youppi was phoned at 11:00 PM EST and informed of the trade.
Most fans polled by Rutters were unaware that the mascot trading deadline, unlike the player trading deadline, extends all the way up to the end of the regular season.
Youppi was drafted in 2005 by the Canadiens after a long stint as baseball mascot for the now defunct Montreal Expos. His second chance at a career in major-league sports came in spite of persistent rumors of alcoholism and drug abuse following his dismissal from MLB in 2004.
Youppi and GM Bob Gainey in happier days
“I’ve always had the utmost respect for Youppi,” said Bob Gainey during Tuesday morning’s press conference. “He gave us good years, but the injuries have taken their toll. We need younger blood for the upcoming playoffs.
“He was slated to become a free agent this summer,” Gainey added. “Sadly, we have to look to the future.”
Youppi has been plagued by groin injuries in the past, and struggled to maintain his career-high cheering average of .450 during the 2006-2007 season.
The General Manager insisted that recent media attention surrounding Youppi had played no part in the trade. “I never believed all those stories about the brothels in Thailand,” said Gainey, in reference to allegations by notorious Globe and Mail columnist Eileen Dover that Youppi indulges in the far-East sex-tourism trade during the off-season.
Youppi’s manager has staunchly denied these claims, famously calling Dover “Une grosse truie mangeuse de marde,” and accusing the Toronto newspaper of being “Un ostie d’torchon sale rempli de cochonneries.”
More recent controversies involving Youppi include unearthed footage of a 2005 junior-league tournament showing the mascot savagely beating on a junior-league goaltender who refused to fight back, and a leaked 2003 police report describing a panicked 911 call from Youppi’s wife, leading to charges that were later dismissed.
It is unclear when Pittsburgh mascot “Iceburg,” a.k.a. “the (figure) Skating Penguin” will assume cheering duties for Montreal. The flightless bird, originally from Argentina, has been dogged by his own recent troubles, with recent scrutiny of his visa status by the U.S. Department of Immigration.