The Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, Oct. 30, and fans were treated to an unexpected guest. Gritty, the Flyers’ beloved mascot, introduced Wally, a six-foot-long alligator, during the “Lion King Cam,” a fan-favorite moment when fans at Wells Fargo Center hold up their children like baby Simba in “The Lion King,” with hopes of being featured on the jumbotron. Instead of a child, Gritty was seen cradling Wally.
Wally belongs to Pennsylvania native Joie Henney and has been featured heavily in Gritty’s most recent Instagram posts.
Gritty captioned one post, “I ain’t afraid of no gator.”
In another post, the mascot shared a series of pictures showcasing his bonding time with Wally, captioned with a casual “c u l8r.”
Wally is no stranger to social media. He and Joie Henney have garnered a substantial online following, amassing over 126,000 TikTok followers and more than 34,000 Instagram devotees. The gator’s popularity soared in August of last year when he was spotted engaging with children and families at Philadelphia’s LOVE Park. His friendly interactions brought smiles to the park’s visitors as well as a large online audience.
Wally and Joie’s unique story first made national sports headlines in late September when Wally was denied entry into Citizens Bank Stadium for a Philadelphia Phillies game. The stadium has a strict “guide dogs, service animals, or service animals in training only” policy. All other animals (including alligators) are prohibited.
Despite being turned away at the gate, Wally was met with warmth and affection from Phillies fans outside the venue – a bizarre but heartwarming scene that found its way onto Instagram, X, and TikTok.
Joie Henney and Wally first met in 2015 after a friend rescued the fourteen-month-old reptile. Their time spent together led to an unprecedented bond. After witnessing the positive effect Wally had on people during his visits to schools and senior homes for educational purposes, Henney embarked on a mission to attain “emotional support animal” status for Wally. In December 2018, Wally achieved this milestone, becoming the first reptile to ever do so. While Henney firmly believes in Wally’s calming influence, he underscores that wild animals should not be considered pets, emphasizing the unique and extraordinary quality of their bond and Wally’s nature.
Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Flyers, who lost the game Wally attended, are off to a 5-7-1 start to the season. They are currently ranked seventh out of eight teams in the Metropolitan Division.
While the Flyers aren’t off to a promising start, Philadelphia sports fans still have a lot to look forward to. The Eagles are currently first in the NFC East and have the best record in the NFL (8-1), and the NBA’s 76ers are 5-1 with five consecutive wins. Perhaps one of these teams will be the next to welcome Wally to a game!