Finn Dowling calls the black cat that ran onto the ice at SAP Center during warmups before Game 1 between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks the ‘world’s luckiest cat.’
This was meant in two respects. For one the 2-3 month old kitten that inexplicably entered the building was saved by the Sharks organization and turned over to Humane Society Silicon Valley where Dowling works. But also, the cat turned into the team’s good luck charm in their 5-2 comeback win over Nashville.
“What sort of a cat is she? She’s the sort of cat that helps hockey teams win games,” Dowling said.
San Jose Sharks COO John Tortora did not see the cat run off the Predators bench onto the ice. But when word caught up to him it was clear to him the team needed to quickly and safely procure their new feline friend and then figure out the next steps to ensure the cat’s well-being.
“The most important thing, and the greatest sense of relief we had, was making sure the cat was found and safe,” said Tortora, who owns a dog. “The cat was safe and we wanted to take immediate steps to make sure it was checked out from a health perspective.”
Finding strange creatures in the basements of sports arenas is not unheard of. So many events occur in these buildings and there are lots of avenues for small animals to enter between loading docks or other spots.
For example, the time former Florida Panthers forward Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the team’s locker room continues to live on in team lore.
“It was surprising, but given the amount of events we have here in the building and our loading dock gate is open during the loading of shows and events I’m not totally surprised a cat was able to come into the building,” Tortora said, also later adding that the Sharks, "obviously prohibit anyone from bringing a live or dead animal into the arena."
After running onto the ice, the animal then hid underneath the bleachers of SAP Center for the rest of the game. Following the contest, SAP Center’s engineering staff found the cat and turned her over to the Sharks, who then started to try to find an owner and/or home for the cat.
On Saturday, the Sharks called Humane Society Silicon Valley to get the ball rolling.
There, veterinarians checked for diseases, did a blood test and found out the cat wasn’t a boy kitten, but a girl. Originally the Sharks called the cat ‘Joe PAW-velski’ but are now calling her ‘Jo PAW-velski.’
Humane Society Silicon Valley also checked the cat for a microchip to determine if she had an owner. Jo will stay there until Thursday so the organization can comb through lost-and-founds and give a potential owner time to come forward. If that doesn’t happen she’ll be put up for adoption.
Dowling said the cat was “pretty spooked” by the entire event and they’ve tried to calm her down a bit.
“We set up a special area for her in the back because she’s a little bit of a shy kitty,” she said. “We don’t know if she’s naturally a shy kitty or because fame is an overwhelming thing. She’s young. She weighs less than two pounds, so it could just be she’s recovering from her debut or she’s by nature a not very socialized kitten and needs to work on getting brave in the world.”
Since the occurrence, the Sharks and their fans decided to have some fun with the superstitious belief that black cats bring bad luck. San Jose’s Twitter account posted photos and GIFs of black cats as the Sharks bounced back from a 1-0 deficit to pull out the win.
In Game 2, another San Jose win, Tortora noted he saw fans in the stands wearing cat paraphernalia.
“The first priority was that the cat was found and then safe and now healthy and from that point on, we’ll have some fun with this and see where it goes,” Tortora said. “I saw some fans in the stands last night wearing cat ears, so they were getting into it and so the market will be energized by it.”
Even players, who try to block out all extracurricular thoughts this time of year, were curious about the cat.
“Their inquiries were generally the same as the public at large. How did the cat get in? Is the cat safe? Where did the cat come from? The same basic questions,” Tortora said.
So is the cat actually good luck? Tortora isn’t buying it.
“I think we all had some fun with it, but the fact of the matter is the Sharks are playing the Nashville Predators,” he said. “Both teams are very good and the better team will win.”
Tortora jokingly noted the cat actually had some unexpected hockey skills. “Interestingly our amateur scouts were in for the weekend and they were very impressed because the cat was able to change on the fly and backcheck into the zone very effectively.”
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