BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's official, the Buffalo Sabres have a team dog.
The Sabres announced the new addition to the team last week on social media, asking fans to help pick the puppy's name. Fans were given a variety of options to choose from, but ultimately the 8-month-old newfoundland puppy was named "Rick" after Sabres Hall-of-fame play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret.
According to the team, Rick was rescued by the Niagara County SPCA and is currently being trained to become a service dog for a local veteran. Rick is becoming part of the team this season through the Sabres' partnership with WNY Heroes and their Pawsitive for Heroes program.
"We had talked for a long time about getting a team dog, but we wanted to make sure the dog served a greater purpose that could have a meaningful impact on our community," said Rich Jureller, Sabres vice president of community relations. "In partnering with the Pawsitive for Heroes program, we've found the perfect match for the team, the dog and the veteran."
The Sabres aren't the only ones with a team dog, at least eight other teams in the NHL have an on-ice dog.
This season Rick will attend community events and select home games to not only greet fans but also cheer on the team. However, the Sabres are reminding fans that while Rick is an adorable puppy, he is a service dog in training, which people should be mindful of.
"He's still a pup so he still has that play mode in him. It'll start to come out of him as he gets older. As a puppy, they're always going to want to be a puppy first," said Chris Kreiger WNY Heroes president and CEO. "We just ask that everyone keep in mind that he is a service dog. He's not here to play around and jump."
Through the Pawsitive for Heroes program, 96 local veterans are currently paired with service dogs. Meanwhile, six veterans are in the process of training with their service dogs, and four dogs are undergoing training and have yet to be paired with a veteran.
Once Rick has been paired with a veteran in need of a service dog, they will undergo training together to build a bond.
"It's very exciting for us. I know it's very exciting for the Buffalo Sabres. We're very honored to have been asked to do this," Kreiger said. "For everyone to come together to make this happen, to the Niagara County SPCA, who we turn to look at the dogs, to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, where Rick is housed and being trained to John Knoph, our trainer, and Western New York Heroes."
At the end of November, Rick was ranked No. 3 among team dogs in the NHL, according to ESPN. The only dogs ahead of Rick were the Minnesota Wild's dog, Celly, and Biscuit, the Washington Capitals' team dog.
The article gave a little disclaimer, saying all of these dogs are good, and none of them are bad. ESPN said the ranking is based on an intricate and highly scientific system of factors, from cuteness to name to various puppy hijinks and more!