We all have heard the phrase "Dogs are man's best friend," but to some Admirals players and one former coach in particular, their dogs mean so much more. As the Admirals prepare for Puck 'n' Paws night at Norfolk Scope on Dec. 10, a few of the Admirals were asked about their four-legged friends and what they mean to them.
When the Admirals hit the road for games, they are greeted by fans that have come to the game to cheer on the Admirals opponent that evening, but when they return home, the barks they hear are those cheering them on and welcoming them home.
Admirals fans have become accustomed to seeing James Wright stickhandle his way around opposing players. Wright’s skill is the result of the countless hours of hard work and practice that typify the life of a junior hockey player. However, he also polished his skills against an unlikely opponent – his dog.
When Wright wasn’t at the rink, he could be found in his family’s kitchen, stick in hand, playing keep away with Misko, a Cocker-poo Border Collie mixed breed. Misko became a member of the Wright family 15 years ago when Wright’s parents brought her home from the SPCA in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“I really wanted a dog, so I was pretty excited when my parents finally said we could get one,” said Wright. “She and I played a lot of hockey together growing up. When it was warm enough for street hockey, I would shoot the ball down the street and let her bring it back. In the winter my parents would bring her to watch my pond hockey games.”
Wright is not the only member of the Admirals who shares his home with a four-legged friend. Defenseman Kevin Quick counts four pets as his own. Quick spent most of last summer fostering kittens for the SPCA in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
“My wife and I heard that the SPCA had tons of kittens and not enough room for them, so we went in and took some home. We took care of them until they were healthy enough to find homes.”
Even though it was hard to let the kittens go, the Quicks found the experience very rewarding. “We definitely plan to do it again this summer. We wish we could help the SPCA here in Norfolk but it’s hard to make that commitment during the season,” said Quick.
Any Admirals fan that has been around since the inception of Admirals hockey has heard of the name John Brophy. Brophy won three championships as the only head coach of the ECHL's Hampton Roads Admirals. Admirals fans best remember Brophy for his antics behind the bench, often getting into screaming matches with opposing coaches and the referees. What they don’t know is that off the ice, Brophy is a calm human being.
After practices, Brophy would often bring his four-legged friends around to chase pucks on the ice. Novi, Brophy's Black Lab, could often be seen chasing down pucks on the ice.
"John loved all dogs but especially Black Labs," reminisced Dennis McEwen, "the Original Admiral," who spent many years with Brophy. "There were days when the dogs ran the arena," said McEwen. "John really loved his dogs."
The unpredictable life of a minor league hockey player can make owning a pet difficult. “I really miss coming home to a dog, but it wouldn’t be fair to get one now,” said Wright.
In addition to long road trips, Admirals players can be called up the NHL or be traded, on a moment’s notice. Many Admirals – including Wright – have enjoyed time in the NHL during the first two months of the season. Wright spent several days with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning in early November.
For Wright and many of his teammates, purchasing a permanent home and finding a pet will be one of the perks of a permanent NHL roster spot. “As soon as I’m in a place where I have some stability, I plan on getting a dog. When I do, I will definitely adopt one.”
On Friday, December 10, the Admirals and the Norfolk and Virginia Beach SPCAs will join together for Admirals Pucks 'n' Paws Night at Norfolk Scope. Admirals fans will be able to adopt and give our friends a fighting chance. There will be a variety of dogs available on the concourse throughout the game for fans to become acquainted with and hopefully take home for the holidays. In addition, specially discounted tickets will be available for advanced purchase through the Admirals' website with proceeds benefitting the Norfolk and Virginia Beach SPCAs.
For a link to help support the neighborhood SPCAs or to purchase tickets for the Dec. 10 game against the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, click here.