Pittsburgh Penguins mascot Iceburgh has been diagnosed with the mumps, the team has confirmed.
Iceburgh was tested Wednesday and placed in mandatory isolation after showing symptoms of the disease, general manager Jim Rutherford said. The lovable penguin was scheduled to visit two elementary schools and a birthday party this weekend, but has cancelled all appearances in the wake of the diagnosis.
"Iceburgh is very disappointed to have to to step away from his commitments," said Penguins team doctor Vance Damme. "But to keep his young fans safe from this very contagious and dangerous virus, it's best that he be kept quarantined for the time being in his home igloo.
"He will be right back out there once his face reduces from its current abnormally large size to its normal abnormally large size."
The 22-year-old Iceburgh began feeling sick earlier this week, after the Penguins home game against Tampa Bay on Monday night. After complaining of fatigue, headaches and a dry beak, he checked with the team's doctors, who originally saw nothing out of the ordinary.
"That suit is heavy and old," Damme said. "We figured fatigue, headaches and dry spots were normal. Turns out we were wrong."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, forward Beau Bennett and defenseman Olli Maatta were diagnosed with the mumps this month. Three other players, including goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, were tested but deemed healthy. (Update: Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss have them, too.)
Now with Iceburgh down as well, the entire franchise is on high alert.
"We're testing any players, Ice Crew members, security guards, Cub Scouts or other mascots Iceburgh may have come in contact with, and we're on top of the situation," Rutherford said. "We feel real bad about this.
"Our people aren't 100 percent sure how a suit, make of wire and fabric, even gets the damn mumps, but who the hell knows what's going on any more?"
Players from the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers have also been afflicted with the mumps since October. Cases are even beginning to show up in American Hockey League teams thanks to players returning to the minors from their NHL parent clubs. The Center For Disease Control recently unveiled a new website dedicated to tracking the spread of the virus throughout the league.
In light of the situation, the league sent out a memo to Mascots Association executive director Donald Furr to provide clubs' costumed ambassadors with recommended guidelines and protocols to assist in both the treatment and prevention of the disease.
"It's virtually impossible to predict how long this outbreak will affect the league's mascots," Damme said. "Worst case scenario, we put all of the costumes in a giant pile, douse them with kerosene and burn them to ashes.
"That'll kill whatever's living in them."
When asked if the mascot costumes would be occupied at the time of burning, Damme said he could make no guarantees.
Kids, relax. Iceburgh does not really have the mumps. I basically just ripped off this story. Feel free to hug Iceburgh as much as you want.