Mercyhurst Magazine Summer 2016

” Left: “Crazy Dave” Armstrong displays the Wompkin Pumpkin. Right: Rick Gotkin with “The Old Man in the Sea.

Faces of Laker spirit Evolution of the Mercyhurst mascot

Dave Armstrong ’86 started quite a tradition when he created the frst costumed character to rally support for Laker teams.

one is quite sure why, but the Buccaneer never actually appeared at a sporting event. “I still like to think that my idea set the stage for what was to come later,” Eric says. In 1994, the college community was again invited to submit mascot proposals, and this time the winning entry came from men’s hockey coach Rick Gotkin. He’d had the design for “The Old Man in the Sea” in his fles since arriving at Mercyhurst in 1988. Not surprisingly, his character wore ice skates and carried a hockey stick, but student Kevin Segedi ’98 was able to modify the design so The Old Man could represent all Laker teams. The Old Man wore a blue, green and white Laker jersey (number 00) and had a large sculpted head with a jutting chin, an oversized nose and a huge grin. Following spirited tryouts in 1996, students Jefrey Dulemba ‘03, Jennifer Houck ’99 and Jennifer Feser ’97 won the right to fll The Old Man’s shoes at games for the frst year. After a decade or so of heavy use, The Old Man was showing his age and yet another contest was staged to update the Mercyhurst mascot. As Spirit Committee Chair Jef Cagle ‘07 said at the time, “We want to change the face of Laker Spirit!” Laker quarterback Mitch Phillis ’08 and tackle Steve Kindler ‘08 came up with the winning concept—a seaman with a commanding presence, but not a pirate.

Back in high school, he had an alter ego known as “Crazy Dave.” During his freshman year at Mercyhurst, Dave and his buddies on McAuley’s third foor decided to pull out all the stops to win a school spirit contest. So he resurrected his Crazy Dave persona and donned an infatable green head known as the Wompkin Pumpkin, complete with a fuorescent orange nose and yellow horns. Not only did the guys win that spirit contest, but Crazy Dave became a fxture at major sporting events over the next four years. He told Merciad reporter Debbie Hison in 1984 that it was his greatest thrill “when someone tells me that I was the sixth man on the team. Maybe one basket was diferent because the crowd was cheering and the team got excited.” Dave’s graduation left quite a void, so his successor as MSG president, Michael Kelly ’88, launched a drive to create an ofcial mascot – one who would personify that mysterious creature known as a Laker. “The Buccaneer,” proposed by Eric Flecken ’89, won the Merciad contest in a landslide. Eric says he envisioned a student dressed up in blue, green and white pirate regalia, rather than a full costume. Praeterita 1987 announced the selection and reported, “The raised sword portrays our willingness to accept all challenges. His proud stance shows our confdence, both as teams and as a community.” No


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