Pierre the Pelican now looks like … well, a pelican.
At least that’s what 9-year-old Jasalynn Ogdee said Wednesday night as she and a handful of New Orleans Pelicans fans sat in the waiting room (well, actually Manning’s restaurant) to see the team’s mascot after his surgery.
“This one is better,” Ogdee said. “It looks like he has a real pelican beak now. The other one looked like a red robin bird.”
It was Pierre’s first public appearance since undergoing surgery Tuesday at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson.
The Pelicans said in a news release Monday that Pierre suffered a broken beak and a concussion Saturday at the Pelicans’ practice facility in a pickup game with Memphis Grizzlies mascot Grizz, the Denver Nuggets’ Rocky, the Sacramento Kings’ Slamson and New Orleans Saints’ Gumbo. Grizz was said to have fouled Pierre hard, knocking him into the padded stand on the goal support.
Team physician Matthew McQueen performed the reconstructive surgery that changed the color of Pierre’s beak from red to yellow and changed its shape to look more like that of a pelican.
“When Pierre got hurt, we were really, really worried,” said Lindsey Mitchell, corporate communications manager for the Pelicans. “But Dr. McQueen and Carolyn Atherton from the Audubon Zoo did an amazing job with the construction of his face. He looks better than ever.”
Fans seem pleased with the outcome of the surgery — especially after showing their displeasure with Pierre’s appearance shortly after he was hatched this fall. Pierre, who replaced Hugo the Hornet with the team’s change of nicknames, was the butt of several jokes on social media when he made his debut in October.
He was largely criticized and ridiculed for not resembling a pelican and also being scary to children.
“He looks much happier now,” said Helena Shear, a season-ticket holder.
But Shear still had one problem with Pierre’s new look.
“He still has fur instead of feathers, and that was the biggest issue I had before,” Shear said. “Was he scary before? I don’t know. He kinda grew on me. Oh, and I think the Mohawk (haircut) is kinda out of style too. But at least he looks happier.”
Atherton said Pierre handled the surgery well and didn’t require any anesthesia.
“He was tough and took it like a warrior,” Atherton said.
Pierre will appear at his first regular-season game since the surgery Wednesday when the Pelicans host the New York Knicks. He officially returns to work this weekend during activities at the 63rd annual NBA All-Star Game hosted in his home city. It will mark his first time in the Pelicans’ home arena since it was renamed the Smoothie King Center.
Mitchell expects Pierre to love the name change of his new habitat.
“I’m sure Pierre loves smoothies,” she said. “With his rehabbing from his surgery and getting stronger every day, I’m sure he is going to find that smoothies give him vitamins and give him everything he needs to be the best version of himself. He is back to work and ready to go.”
Pierre gave fans high-fives and posed for pictures shortly after showing off his new look, but declined interview requests.