Taylor Arnold '07 and John Hall '08 have fond memories of attending hockey games as children with their fathers. What they remember most, though, is not the athletes. They remember the mascots.

Now, Arnold and Hall dress as the Bowdoin polar bear for sports games and other events on campus. Arnold was the polar bear at all sporting events during his first year and now fills the role sporadically. Hall dons the bear wear for the annual Bowdoin-Colby hockey game. At women's basketball games, the polar bear is Andrew Hippert '08, and Nicole Borunda '08 filled in at many events during her first year.

Before Arnold arrived at Bowdoin, no one had been the polar bear for a few years because of a lack of volunteers. Because Arnold remembered his experiences with the polar bear from hockey games with his father, Dale Arnold '79, he decided to bring the bear back.

"I did it full time and kept the costume in the basement of Appleton," Arnold says. "Sometimes I would throw on the costume and walk around the academic buildings."

Before Arnold became the polar bear, Manager of Athletic Services Bernie LaCroix kept the costume in an unlabeled black bin in the cage, according to Taylor, "probably so people wouldn't steal it."

Hall came across the polar bear position when an intern at the athletic department took over the mascot scheduling during Hall's first year. A New Hampshire native, Hall remembered seeing the University of New Hampshire wildcat at the university's hockey games, and he became the wildcat mascot at his middle school.

"I always enjoyed watching the mascot," Hall says. "I didn't pay attention to the game."

Two of Hall's friends from high school, both of whom played hockey, are also mascots at their respective colleges. One is the Boston University terrier and the other is the University of Massachusetts minuteman.

The prides and perils of being the polar bear tend to involve children. While fans at sporting events love the mascot, they also love to tease the polar bear. Arnold has had several encounters with 10-year-olds pulling his tail.

But most experiences as the Bowdoin mascot have been positive. Hippert says, "The best part about being the polar bear is the little kids who come up and want to slap your hand and get your attention. The look in their eyes is priceless."

"To be honest," he continues, "I didn't really even pay attention to the women's basketball games at all."

Hippert also recalled a game when he took the costume off with a few minutes left in the second half, and a group of kids came up and asked him if he had seen the polar bear.

"I told them he was getting too hot and went back to the North Pole," Hippert says. "I felt bad, but there was no way I was putting that thing back on again."

"The best part about being the bear is that everyone is always so excited to see you," Borunda says. "It can be a little scary at first when you're still getting used to the suit. I was always afraid of stepping on little kids or getting knocked over."

During her first time as the mascot, on Parents Weekend in 2004, Borunda's fears were realized when a little kid knocked her over.

"Someone's mom was pressuring them to get a picture taken with me," Borunda says. "The young man wasn't too happy about Mom's idea and in protest decided to push the unsuspecting bear over. Funny? Absolutely."

While people may think that opposing fans would pose this same danger, Hall said that he hasn't encountered problems, even with Colby fans.

"They're actually really nice," Hall says. "They fool around but I never feel threatened. They understand there's a person inside."

Arnold did have a problem with opposing fans, though it had nothing to do with physical threats. When the other team had a large group that cheered loudly, Arnold had difficulty telling who scored because of the lack of peripheral vision in the bear costume.

"I'd do a happy dance and then realize that the other team scored," Arnold says.

People inside the mascot actually have their head inside the bear's neck, which leads Hall to conclude that the ideal height for the polar bear wearer would be about 5'6". There is a helmet attached to the polar bear head and even a fan, but neither Arnold nor Hall has discovered how it works.

"After a game, I'm 100 percent soaked," Hall says. "I could wring out my shirt and fill up a Poland Spring bottle."

Still, Hall has big dreams for the polar bear, whether it is mastering skating between periods of the Colby game (something Arnold has already done, finding the costume very "top-heavy") or giving out prizes. One of his favorite Bowdoin memories was last year's Colby game, when he arrived in the second period and Bowdoin was losing 3-1 in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 2,500.

"I tried to boost the spirit and it worked," Hall says. "Bowdoin won 7-6 in overtime. I don't take credit for the win, but I definitely think the polar bear had something to do with it."