Don’t be alarmed if you enter the Kingdome this year and encounter a little Blue Devil. He’s friendly, and might even give you a high five if you ask nicely.
Mocha is a one-year-old Shih Tzu puppy and the unofficial Blue Devils mascot. He belongs to the family of Brendan Balcom, a second year at King’s who plays both soccer and basketball for the Blue Devils.
Brendan’s parents, Rena and Richard Balcom, live in Shelburne, NS, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Halifax. Despite the long drive, they have rarely missed a King’s soccer or basketball game – home or away– and Mocha always comes with them.
“We call ourselves the King’s superfans,” says Rena. “It was only appropriate that Mocha be the mascot.”
They got Mocha in November of 2016, and he’s been attending games ever since. In fact, they picked Mocha up on a Tuesday and by the weekend he was with them in New Brunswick, cheering on the basketball team.
First, he was snuck in by a carrying case. And then, when he got bigger, Rena carried him in and sat with him on her lap. Although some facilities won’t allow Mocha in, the Balcoms always bring him along anyway, for good luck. Rena says all that matters is that “he’s on the premises somewhere.”
“He wasn’t allowed on the field at UNBSJ and they lost so I figured there’s got to be something there,” she says.
In October of 2017, inspiration struck Rena.
“I was online, and I saw one of those Halloween costumes for dogs,” says Rena. “But it just dawned on me that there’s a devil costume, but why can’t we make it a blue devil?”
And so, the mascot was born. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Rena’s mother came down to visit from Cape Breton, and the two of them spent six hours creating Mocha’s Blue Devil costume.
Brendan was also visiting home at the time, and his mother and grandmother revealed their plan to him. He was unsure at first.
“I’m not one for having a dressed up dog,” he says, but after Brendan saw Mocha in the costume he conceded that, “it did look kind of cute.”
Mocha is the first of his kind. According to the university archives, the basketball team adopted the name Blue Devils in the 1970s, slowly followed by other varsity athletics. But they have never had a mascot.
The Balcoms brought Mocha to Brendan’s soccer game the next weekend, and the response was unanimous. The people love him.
“I knew it would be cute but I didn’t realize other people would notice it too,” says Rena. “The girls’ soccer just loves him; they make such a fuss over him.”
Mocha loves his costume too, especially when he’s outside. It keeps him warm while he watches soccer. His favourite part is the stuffed tail.
“He goes around and around and around in circles trying to get his tail and then he just chews on it,” says Rena.
Mocha knows a lot of tricks already. He can high five, dance, and he will jump over Rena’s legs on command. But he’s going to learn another trick especially for Brendan’s games.
“I’m going to try to teach him to cheer, so if I cheer he’ll bark,” says Rena.
Now that soccer season has ended, you can catch Mocha at the Kingdome watching basketball. Rena hopes that Mocha will help lead the team to victory.
“I just hope he brings a little luck to them and a little inspiration,” she says.