Lions, jaguars, and Bengals. Many school mascots in our state are named for sleek and powerful animals, but in North Plainfield, the football, basketball, wrestling, and track teams are known as the Canucks. Yes, the school mascot is a Canadian woodsman, a bearded lumberjack in a plaid shirt and wool cap.
Why the Canuck? Well, North Plainfield was already slightly self-conscious about its previous mascot—the pine tree. Then, in the 1950s, kids from rival South Plainfield High School started sneaking into North Plainfield and cutting down trees before football games.
“Look, I was always embarrassed by our symbol,” says assistant principal Ralph Sorrentino, a North Plainfield football player in the ’50s. “We had a mascot dressed as a tree. South Plainfield had a tiger.” It was a particular problem when they played the Metuchen Bulldogs. “You know what dogs do to trees,” he says.
So in the early 1970s North Plainfield’s teams became the Canucks—woodsmen who cut down trees. Besides, the town of North Plainfield had something of a French-Canadian population, so the name seemed logical.
But is the term Canucks politically correct? “No one gives us any flak about it,” says Sorrentino. The Canuck woodsman is a symbol of strength, he says, and North Plainfield’s sports teams are staunch.
Now if only someone would explain some of the other unusual state mascots—the Ghosts of Paterson or the Green Wave of Audubon. What’s up with those?