Prehistoric Puck

Matt Parker / For The Post

Prehistoric Puck

Matt Parker / For The Post

Every team in every sport as its own oddities. Oakland Raiders fans dress up in the most outlandish outfits, wearing nothing but black and silver, and celebratory cannons are shot off whenever the Columbus Blue Jackets score a goal.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a tradition as prehistoric as the one budding within Bird Arena.

The Tyrannosaurus rex has been extinct for well over 65 million years — that was the general consensus until one surfaced, very alive, at Bird Arena in late October.

While it has won the hearts of Bobcat faithful, the mysterious — almost mythical — creature roams throughout the old arena in search of its next victim. Its prey? The opposing team and its supporters.

Mainly used in attempt to get in the head of visiting teams at Bird, “Rex” has been seen standing next to the away team’s bench, staring menacingly in hopes of getting one of the skaters to crack.

Ohio goalie Jimmy Thomas has been one of the many Bird Arena dwellers to notice the carnivorous monster lurking about.

“It’s awesome knowing that we have fans that support us that much,” Thomas said. “It’s cool, as a team, knowing that your fans go out of their way to do things that make the atmosphere more fun.”

Fun has most often equated to wins. Since Rex first appeared at Bird Arena when Ohio played Stony Brook, the Bobcats are 9-2-1, incluing wins over nationally acclaimed teams such as Lindenwood and Robert Morris-Illinois.

Other players are more outspoken about Rex, including junior forward Matt Rudin.

“When Rex comes over, people start laughing and want to get more involved with the game.”– Rawlin Barber

“I love it,” Rudin said. “I think dinosaurs were a pretty cool species.”

Rudin — whose favorite dinosaur is the fictional Indominous rex from 2015 film Jurassic World — used to study marine biology but has since switched to environmental geography, and claims to “know his dinosaurs.”

Despite all the fame, pictures and going-ons that occur for Rex, it’s who’s under the suit that makes Rex shine.

Virtually every single T. rex to have ever lived hatched from an egg, yet Rex takes the form of an inflatable suit donned by Belpre High School junior Rawlin Barber.

Barber, the son of Michael and Wendy Barber, is one of the many kids to have grown up in Bird Arena watching Ohio play. Mainly, that’s due to the Barber family being “Blue Line Boosters” for the team.

Rex has been a year in the making; Michael was originally supposed to be the prehistoric creature.

“It started out last Halloween; (Michael) was supposed to wear his hockey jersey over it,” Rawlin said. “But the arms (of the costume) go straight out, so he couldn’t wear it.”

While the costume was collecting dust in the family’s basement, the idea came about last season, but the execution happened this year; from a dinosaur’s perspective, it’s opened up a whole new world.

Rawlin, who described himself as a quiet person who does his own thing, takes on a new life behind the teeth of a rubber dinosaur that’s allowed him to be more comfortable in his skin.

“(When I’m in the suit), I just jump around a lot and dancing to whatever (public address announcer Jake (Jakuszeit) plays,” Rawlin said. “It’s completely different.”

Rex has received mixed reviews from visiting teams — getting water squirted at him and being shown the middle finger is just another day at the office.

Both father and son have seen the power of influence that Rex has over the crowd at Bird Arena as well as his ability to put life back into the stands.

“Sometimes people are just there to watch,” Rawlin said. “When Rex comes over, people start laughing and want to get more involved with the game.”

The relationship between a team and its fans is give and take. But whether Ohio wins or loses, the Barbers are there for their Bobcats.

“At the end of it, we’re die hard Ohio hockey fans,” Michael said. “We’d never do something that takes away from the players.”

To coach Sean Hogan, Rex is a part of the Ohio family.

“My favorite dinosaur?” Hogan said. “Our dinosaur, Rex.”

Photo by: Emilee Chinn / For The Post

Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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