Professional sports mascot get all kinds of requests.
Photos, autographs, appearances at birthday parties and weddings, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Tux has been asked for them all.
Helping deliver a baby?
Yep, someone asked the 6-foot-plus penguin to do that, too.
“The strangest request was (a couple) wanted me to be in the birthing room,” said Chad Spencer, the man who brings Tux to life. “They wanted me to cut the umbilical cord of their child.”
Fortunately, Spencer and his oversized penguin suit missed that happy occasion.
“I actually got sick that day,” he said. “I don’t think it would have been very healthy for me to be in there.”
He hasn’t missed many others since taking over the popular character in May 2006.
It leads to an interesting a life. Just how interesting? Fans can find out this week when a documentary series featuring Spencer and his alter ego premiers on the video streaming service Hulu.
“Behind the Mask” will debut on Tuesday. The show will give a behind the scenes look at the lives of Spencer and two other mascots — Hey Reb! of UNLV and Rooty the Cedar Tree of Lebanon High School.
One thing area fans don’t need to watch the documentary to know is just how popular Tux is.
In fact, even though he’s never scored a goal or dropped his gloves for a fight, Tux just may be the most popular Penguin of all time.
“Tux is a very lovable character,” said Spencer, who was quick to credit the two previous performers in the costume with the big flightless bird’s popularity.
Still, Spencer has to get much of the credit for how children flock to Tux at his public appearances.
“There is a gift that God has given me with children and people, entertaining them,” the 40-year-old Spencer said.
“Just knowing what to do and how to act at certain times and kind of reading crowd, I think that’s what brings it in.”
Spencer added that he also has been performing as a comedian and magician for children’s parties for about 20 years.
It’s his love for entertaining that lead him to a career as a sports mascot.
Well, that and a trip to a junior league hockey game.
“I worked at a tire plant for eight years and I used to go to the Medicine Hat Tiger hockey games,” said Spencer, who was born in San Bernadino, Calif., but grew up in the Calgary, Alberta, area. “I would watch the mascot running around and I thought, ‘Wow, that has to be the coolest job ever.’”
And like a lot of hockey players who get their chance when the player in front of them is injured, Spencer got his when the Medicine Hat mascot suffered an unfortunate accident.
“I was able to audition and I got the job,” Spencer said. “I was the mascot with them for the first three years of my mascotting career.
“And that’s what turned me on. I loved it from the first moment I put on the suit.”
From there, Spencer landed a job with his first pro team, the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League. Eventually, Spencer spotted an ad to fill Tux’s suit.
“I had no idea who (the WBS Penguins) really where other than knowing about the AHL,” he said. “But they flew me down for an audition, and next thing you know, I was the next Tux.”
It’s been a dream job for Spencer.
“Wilkes-Barre’s been very good to me,” Spencer said. “I’ve loved every second I’ve been here.”
His time here hasn’t been without some hardships, however.
Working year round as Tux means that Spencer doesn’t get to spend much time with his 13-year-old son Cody, who lives in Canada.
“It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Spencer said.
The two keep in touch through Skype and text messages, and Cody does visit Wilkes-Barre from time to time.
His thoughts on his dad’s unique job?
“He thinks it’s cool,” Spencer said. “He referenced to me that he would rather have me do this than be a lawyer. He views me as kind of a super hero.
“He’s told me that and that makes me happy.”
Like the players on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s roster, Spencer would like to move up and land a job with a big league team. He even almost had a deal to become the Edmonton Oilers’ first mascot. But after he created a bulldog character for the club on paper, the NHL team decided to employ dancers instead of a mascot.
He’s not giving up on his dream, though.
“I need to go to the NHL or MLB or the NBA, in that venue,” Spencer said. “I’m ready for it.”
Whenever he makes that jump, it’s doubtful his new character will be asked to help deliver someone’s baby.