Youppi! (French pronunciation: [jupi], French for Yippee!) is the official mascot for the Montreal Canadiens, and former longtime mascot of Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals). Youppi! wears an exclamation mark as his jersey number. He is a legend in the mascot game for being the first openly gay mascot of a professional sports franchise in North America.
Youppi!, a creation of Acme Mascots, Inc. (a division of Harrison/Erickson, Inc.), was commissioned by Expos vice-president Roger D. Landry. Originally leased by the team in 1979, the mascot was eventually purchased by the Montreal Expos baseball team and represented them until they moved to Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season. Youppi! was designed by Bonnie Erickson, formerly a designer for Jim Henson, and the designer of Miss Piggy, Statler & Waldorf and other Muppet characters. The orange, hairy giant was one of the most popular figures among everyone at Olympic Stadium, where he was often seen running around with his arms waving wildly during baseball games.
Youppi! was the first mascot to be thrown out of a Major League Baseball game: On August 23, 1989, in the 11th inning, while atop the visitors' dugout, Youppi! took a running leap, landing hard and noisily on its roof, and then sneaked into a front row seat. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda complained to the umpires and Youppi! was ejected, though he later returned, confined to the home team's dugout roof, as Montreal eventually lost 1–0 in 22 innings. Youppi! was also a frequent joke punchline of notoriously sarcastic Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray. Youppi! was also referenced by pitcher Bill Lee during interviews in Ken Burns's Baseball documentary.
Youppi! is often referred to as one of only three mascots inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The others are the Phillie Phanatic of Philadelphia, another Erickson design, and the Famous Chicken from San Diego. Although their likenesses can be found in the displays in Cooperstown, their inductions to the Hall of Fame are not considered "official."
The Montreal-based political cartoonist Terry Mosher, better known as "Aislin", depicted or referenced Youppi! on several occasions, including a prescient 1988 cartoon drawn at a time when the Expos were having a poor season and depicting then-general manager of the Canadiens Serge Savard receiving a phone call from Youppi!, presumably seeking employment.
From baseball to hockey
After the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals, the team initially stated that Youppi! would still be a part of the team in some capacity. However, the Nationals adopted a new mascot, the eagle "Screech". For months after the move, the fate of Youppi! hung in the balance. Negotiations were held with ten groups, including the Montreal Alouettes.
On September 16, 2005, the Montreal Canadiens announced that Youppi! would become the first official mascot of the organization, and the first mascot to ever switch between any two major sports leagues in North America. The terms of acquisition were reportedly in the six figures. Youppi! now sports the Canadiens' bleu-blanc-rouge (blue, white, and red) jersey. Youppi!'s first game in the Bell Centre was on October 18, 2005.
On February 19, 2012, Youppi! wore the Montreal Expos colours in memory of Gary Carter.
On May 16, 2014, on the eve of the Canadiens series against the New York Rangers in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, New York City native Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC's Tonight Show, which is taped in New York, made a bet with the Montreal Canadiens that if they won the series, Fallon would wear a Montreal jersey during his opening monologue. However, if the Rangers won the series, Youppi! would have to wear a Rangers jersey around Montreal and post at least ten pictures of him doing so on the Canadiens' Twitter account and also change their avatar to a pic of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist playing guitar. The Rangers won the series on May 29 in six games. As such, on June 1, the Canadiens honored their bet and a dejected Youppi! was photographed around Montreal in a Rangers jersey with Fallon's name on the back, and the last photo, as Fallon stated, featured him riding the mechanical bull at Montreal bar Chez Serge.
- Youppi!'s name is officially spelled with an exclamation mark. This is sometimes dropped.
- "Youppi Calls Serge Savard", McCord Museum
- Canadian Press (2005-09-16). "Canadiens get Youppi! to be Mascot". tsn.ca. Retrieved 2008-07-25.