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Saturday, December 25, 2004
Updated: December 28, 12:48 PM ET
Eagle replaces polar bear for U.S. representation

Associated Press

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.