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Eagle replaces polar bear for U.S. representation

12/28/2004

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Organizers of the World Junior
Championship hockey tournament have switched the event's mascot,
saying they needed a symbol that better represents the United
States as a host country.

Earlier this year, officials announced that a polar bear named
"Breezer" would be the tournament's official mascot. The bear
even made a few guest appearances at North Dakota hockey games.

But when Team USA played UND in the tournament's first
exhibition hockey game last week, a human-sized bald eagle named
"Icy" swooped in to claim the spotlight.

Officials with USA Hockey, which is sanctioning the tournament,
decided in early November to scrap the polar bear idea, spokeswoman
Caitlin Lazaro said.

"We thought a bear would be more kid-friendly, but an eagle
would be more U.S.-oriented," Lazaro said. "We wanted to put that
U.S. flair on it."

At least two people will wear the Icy costume throughout the
tournament, and the mascot is scheduled to appear at all Team USA
games.

The world's top young hockey players face off in the 10-day
tournament, which began Christmas Day in Grand Forks and Thief
River Falls, Minn.