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NHL, Philadelphia health department clear Flyers mascot Gritty to attend games after petition

NHL, Philadelphia health department clear Flyers mascot Gritty to attend games after petition
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The NHL and Philadelphia health officials have cleared the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot Gritty to return to the ice amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The announcement comes after a petition, written in the first person by Gritty, garnered more than 10,000 signatures calling for the mascot to be allowed to participate in the Flyers' games.

The petition calls for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to declare Gritty, who has come to represent the city’s unique culture and attitude, an essential worker.

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The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s James Garrow told the outlet Billy Penn that Gritty’s presence would likely be safe if the mascot complies with normal safety protocols.

“He’s been excellent at this; we applaud the Flyers and Gritty for continuing to demonstrate best practices,” Garrow said, pointing to the mascot appearing in public in a face shield earlier this year.

Garrow said the sticking point was not with health officials but rather with the NHL.

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“It’s our understanding that the NHL has decided that the mascots aren’t an essential part of the game,” he said. “They’re basically considered to be spectators, and according to our current guidance there cannot be spectators for indoor events.”

However, the NHL appeared to see things the petitioners’ way by Wednesday morning, when the mascot tweeted that the league agreed to grant him arena access to games and included a two-word statement: “I’m back.”