The cat that streaked across the SAP Center ice before Game 1 of the San Jose Sharks 2016 second-round playoff series quickly piqued the interest of Christina Marleau.
Almost immediately after the animal was found, Marleau, who is married to Sharks all-time leading scorer Patrick Marleau, inquired on how she could adopt the cat and bring it into their family’s home.
“She took care of it all. I was obviously in the playoffs, so she did it all,” Patrick said recently after the Sharks’ 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. “She mentioned that she was trying to get it and she called right away, and we had been looking for a cat.”
In many ways, the cat’s running across the ice that April evening led to a chain reaction that has enabled more felines to find owners.
After the game, the cat was found underneath the stands by SAP Center’s engineering staff and turned over to the Sharks, who called her ‘Jo Pawvelski.’ They then started the process of trying to find a home for her and eventually gave her to the Humane Society Silicon Valley.
On May 15, the Sharks announced Jo had found place to live, but never said who owned the cat. In June, Christina posted on Twitter that the Marleaus adopted the cat, who they still call Jo. In order to make Jo’s transition to their home easier, the two adopted a second stray cat that the family named Stanley. And many people who called HSSV looking to own Jo, ended up still adopting cats.
“A lot of the people who called and expressed interest in adopting Jo, we did have some other adoptions that took place as a result of that,” said Finn Dowling, the content marketing manager for Humane Society Silicon Valley. “(The Marleaus) were just the most amazing people and they went out of their way not only to give this cat a home but even get it a friend so it would be comfortable because it was a really shy cat.”
When Christina Marleau inquired about Jo, everyone around the team who knew about it and HSSV kept quiet.
The Sharks were in the middle of the playoff run and nobody wanted to create a further distraction, even though some really wanted to let everyone know how special they believed this gesture truly was.
“There was a lot going on with the Sharks right then and we wanted to respect that as well because the Sharks organization was just awesome,” Dowling said. “We definitely wanted to make sure that we respected all of them.”
While Jo was at HSSV, a video camera was put in her room with a bunch of Sharks gear that was donated by the team. This went viral and helped boost Humane Society Silicon Valley’s other social media properties in the process.
“It helped us on so many different levels,” Dowling said. “We had a huge uptick in Twitter followers and Instagram followers, particularly while we had Jo with us because we also had a live cam in her room. That cam in and of itself got like 60,000 views, it was insane. And then people started following us on social.”
Even though they had a lot of inquiries about Jo, HSSV didn’t make her available to the public right away in part because the Marleaus showed interest so quickly. Also, there were some other medical issues that needed to be cleared with Jo before she was ready to be adopted.
“I can’t say enough good things about (Patrick Marleau) and the Sharks,” Dowling said. “He is in a lot of ways one of the big faces of the Sharks, and it’s sort of funny that this cat who last season became sort of an icon for the Sharks, that they wound up together.
According to Dowling, the whole adoption process had another impact. It gave better publicity to black cats, who often have trouble being noticed.
“It also gave us a really good platform because black kittens and black cats have a hard time – it’s not because of superstition, it’s because they don’t catch the eye as much as other cats and kittens,” Dowling said. “To have a family that’s such a role model in the community sort of step up – if there was ever a pet that needed that sort of PR boost, it was the black cat.”
The adoption of Jo and the fervor around it has led to a stronger relationship between HSSV and the Sharks organization. On New Years Eve the San Jose Barracuda – the AHL affiliate of the team – will release a ‘Cuda and Canines’ calendar that they shot with dogs at Humane Society Silicon Valley. The Barracuda are also working on a collection drive with the Humane Society Silicon Valley for later in the season.
“They’re still trucking for us, they’re still working for us, so we’re really grateful for that,” Dowling said.
Sharks players still get a kick out of the way the situation with Jo played out – from her running onto the rink to finding a home with one of the longtime faces of the franchise.
“(Patrick) has a great spot to have a lot of animals, so I’m not too, too surprised (he adopted her),” longtime teammate Joe Thornton said.
Thornton chuckled when asked what he thought about Marleau keeping the name ‘Jo’ for the cat, “Probably because he’s playing with two Joes (on his line), so that’s probably why he’s using Joe a lot more, he’s used to it I guess.”
Meanwhile, Jo and Stanley have seemed to nicely acclimate to Marleau’s home. They’ve even caught a few “presents” and left them on the front steps according to Patrick.
“She was very timid coming around us at the start,” he said. “It took a lot of time, a lot of coaxing, a lot of feeding and a lot of hand feeding but now she’s part of the family.”
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