ICE. COOOOOLD. BEEEEER.
During any given Blue Jays game, those were three familiar words you could hear echoing throughout the concrete confines of the Rogers Centre.
Although some may not have known him name, they definitely knew him when they heard him hawking beer with his famous catchphrase. Of course I’m talking about none other than Wayne McMahon, also known as “Ice Cold Wayne” or the “Ice Cold Beer Guy”.
Wayne is the subject of the first Flashback Friday of the season. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly five years since Ice Cold Wayne stopped selling beer to patrons at the Rogers Centre … but it’s true.
In 2008, Wayne was let get go rather suddenly and unexpectedly. After fans got wind that Ice Cold Wayne was fired, there was public uproar at the loss of everyone’s favourite beer hawker at the Rogers Centre.
Last time I checked, there was an online petition with close to 3,000 signatures in the hopes of giving Wayne his job back. There’s no question Ice Cold Wayne was a fan favourite and entertained thousands upon thousands of fans over the years.
I decided to reach out to Wayne to get his side of the story, as well as to see how “Ice Cold Wayne” came to be, and what he’s doing now.
How did you get started as a beer vendor at the Blue Jays games?
I was looking to get some part-time work, just to be active. I got paid 20 bucks an hour to hawk beer at a game, I got to see some baseball, which I love. So I applied and they hired me, so I went to work in 2003 hawking beer.
Where did you come up with your famous “Ice cold beer” catchphrase?
That sort of came up for me to distinguish myself from the other beer vendors. It wasn’t the first year, but it was the second year. I started watching the other guys, and some had their shtick and doing way of things.
I’ve been in sales my entire life, and I have a big voice and I know how to use it.
So I just started playing around with a bit, started with the “ice” and the “cold” and I dragged it out a bit. Then little kids, 5,6,7 8 year olds were grinning ear to ear and they just seemed to be loving it … that’s when I knew I had a winner.
How long was it before people started to take notice of you at the ballpark?
All it took was one season. I started doing it in year two, and by the end of that year, certainly all the regulars knew that was going on. The people that came to the odd game here or there were sort of in shock … like I wasn’t playing with a full deck or something.
By my third season, it was full blown and people were egging me on to do it. Some of these kids were more interested in seeing the “Ice Cold Beer guy” than the Blue Jays.
I understand it’s tough to keep young kids occupied for three hours to watch a ball game. Giving them the interruption and putting a smile on their face that certainly made things go a little better for them, and the parents loved me for it too.
I wanted to get your side of the story when it comes to what happened in the summer of 2008; the incident that lead to the Blue Jays letting you go. Do you remember what happened that day?
They claim there was a mystery shopper that ordered a beer from me and I failed to ask for identification. I served him two beers without asking for ID. The rule was you had to ask for ID for anyone who looks under 30, and you’re only allowed to serve one beer per customer.
They tell me he was at this particular section, 19 seats from the aisle, and he was 23 years of age. And my claim to them was “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I don’t sell to minors. This guy had to look 30 or I wouldn’t serve him.”
And they fired me, and I was most upset … I did nothing wrong under the liquor control act.
Do you ever miss selling beer at the Blue Jays games?
I miss it every single game. I haven’t been there for a year, it chokes me right up to be there. When I walk down the aisle, I’ll get calls from people yelling “Ice cold beer!” … and they’ll start clapping.
What was your favourite part about working for the Blue Jays?
I would love to go down to the bottom of the aisle, with a full row, turn around and look up, and you could see they were all grinning from ear to ear waiting for me to say it.
So I’d do my thing, and it would bring so many smiles, laughter and chuckles to the fans.
My final question for you, Wayne – I’m sure a lot of people are curious, what are you up to these days?
I’m working as a standardized patient for some pharmacy companies and medical companies, and I try to do a bit of voiceover and acting … just trying to keep busy.
As one hawker among hundreds, Wayne McMahon truly found a way to distinguish himself from everybody else. And he did it all with three simple words that cut to the core of all baseball fans: ice, cold, beer.
Cheers, Ice Cold Wayne.