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Cow Palace Guard

Lauren Murrow | February 3, 2014 | Lifestyle Story Culture

Every week, sometimes three nights in a row, Jay Bergers III goes through a pregame ritual. He showers, tugs on his orange unitard topped with a horned hood, smears some orange and black greasepaint across his face, dabs his shoes with a little black polish, and tests the batteries on his homemade light-up sign reading “Let’s Go Bulls!” Then he heads over to the Cow Palace—home of the city’s year-old minor-league hockey team, the San Francisco Bulls—and proceeds “to high-five as many people as humanly possible.” Since being introduced to the Bulls last year by Canadian friends, Bergers has become the team’s unofficial mascot. (“Rawhide is awesome,” he says of his official counterpart, “but he can’t scream along with you.”) Bergers is joined at home games by a small contingent of rowdy Bulls superfans, many of them longtime hockey buffs sick of commuting to San Jose for the Sharks. Though the franchise has been plagued by poor attendance—typically, around 1,000 to 2,000 fans a night—and a lackluster record of 25 and 47 last year, its fans are as die-hard as they come. “This crowd is like 1,000 friends,” says Rocky Barbanica, president of the Matadors, the Bulls’ booster club. “I know a lot of them better than my Facebook friends.

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