It’s been a rough — er, ruff — pandemic for everybody.
Away from the rink for months, several NHL team dogs have been busy advancing in their careers off the ice, separated from their clubs following the season pause in March.
Many of the team dogs join a club while in training as a service dog, and the extended offseason has seen several graduate and make progress towards their goals.
Captain joined the Washington Capitals at 10 weeks old to undergo training and socialization around the team for a scheduled 14-16 months in October 2019. Since then, the Capitals say he has learned all the PTSD service dog skills that his puppy raiser will teach him.
In November, the fan-voted favorite NHL team dog even garnered a spot on Alex Ovechkin’s hockey card.
— Captain (@CapsPup) December 3, 2020
Halfway across the country, Breezer served as the Minnesota Wild team dog since August 2019 and was donated to Army veteran Adam Potter in July. Since then, the Wild have taken on Hobey, another golden retriever who will train with the non-profit Soldier’s 6 this summer.
Hobey, now a year old, joined the Wild in July. He is being fostered by Wild Chief Financial Officer Jeff Pellegrom and his wife, Mary, to learn obedience training.
Islanders dog Tori — which is short for Torrey, named after former Islanders general manager Bill Torrey — is preparing for formal training in February and is nearing the end of her time with the team. She is continuing to apply skills learned with the team while out in public environments, and will prepare for three or four months before being dispatched.
The Labrador retriever was scheduled originally to be with the team for 14 months.
The Arizona Coyotes dog, Luna, is preparing for her graduation. According to the team, her training around the Coyotes taught her “to provide emotional support, fetch items, and do handy tricks like turn off light switches”
The one-and-a-half year old black lab will be placed with a veteran as a full service dog after her graduation.
Plenty of other NHL teams have dogs too — such as Montreal, Nashville, and St. Louis — and they’ve all had to adjust to their training and socialization shifting away from their respective teams during the pandemic.
By all accounts, they still all remain on track to complete their training, and for some like Luna and Tori, graduation is around the corner.
Dogs won’t be able to roam as freely around the bowels of NHL arenas this season with social distancing in practice. Their teammates on the ice will just have to follow their journeys virtually, just like the rest of us.