The Montreal Canadiens have begun charging fans nearly $200 for a personal visit from their mascot, Youppi! during games. 

Fans will have to dish out $195 to receive a brief visit and photo session from Youppi! The visit includes the mascot coming to the fans’ seats with confetti, a personalized sign, and a themed gift bag worth over $75. 

When buying tickets for the game, fans can select the option for a visit from Youppi! 

Maxime Truman, a commentator and co-owner of the fan site Dans Les Coulisses, came across a social media advertisement for the offer during the weekend. His subsequent post about it quickly went viral on social media, attracting hundreds of predominantly negative comments.

Jean-Nicolas Blanchet, assistant to the sports director at Journal De Quebec, recently discussed the issue with Rodger Brulotte. The latter is one of the people who created Youppi! when he was working with the Expos. Brulotte said he wanted the mascot to be one that kids wanted to hug.

Unless parents are willing to cough up $195, their children’s desires to hug the mascot will remain unfulfilled. Unless you’re lucky enough to bump into him at the game, assuming he’s not too busy with his pricey dates. 

“All of this is the absolute opposite of the concept of a mascot. It seems to me that a mascot is accessible, a tool to bring the team closer to the fans, especially young fans,” said Blanchet

“It’s so sad and insane that I refuse to believe it’s true. A big prestigious organization like the Canadiens, worth about $2.5 billion, decides to monetize their mascot’s hugs to make even more money,” he added.

The day following the exposure of the marketing scheme, Truman explained on X that the “comments on this Tweet are quite unanimous.” Fans did not mince their words. 

The Canadiens are not the only team charging for mascot visits. It’s $150 USD for a visit from the Kings’ mascot Bailey in Los Angeles, and the mascot Dinger for the Colorado Avalanche is asking the same price. However, it’s only $85 for a visit from Victor E. Green of the Dallas Stars. 

Moshe Lander, a lecturer specializing in sports economics at Concordia University, told the Canadian Press that these mascot visits represent a growing trend among sports teams to enhance the arena experience, extending it far beyond the mere watching of the game.

Lander explained that with the advancements in TV quality, teams are now striving to provide unique experiences, like concerts and personalized encounters, that fans can’t replicate at home. This strategy aims to justify the high cost of ticket prices.

“The game is almost becoming ancillary to the broader experience of being in a stadium or in an arena,” he said.

However, he deemed that in this situation, the Canadiens failed, both in terms of price point and the offer itself. 

“What are we supposed to do with the person who doesn’t pay that money?” he said. “Is Youppi! supposed to swat at that little kid that tries to come up for a free picture and say, ‘Show me the money or get out of here, kid?’”

Blanchet feels that teams are already asking enough of their fans.

“The ghosts of banners hanging from the ceiling must be discouraged,” he said.