The Golden Knights Will Win a Cup for the Pup
Las Vegas Journal Review Photo
By Scott Lowe - MYHockeyRankings.com
When it became reality that the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights would be competing in the Stanley Cup Finals this year, I figured that I hadn’t earned the right to preview, analyze or otherwise write about the upcoming series. After all, in my playoff preview I had predicted that both teams would get the boot in the first round with Boston and Edmonton advancing to the Finals.
I also made other brilliant prognostications such as the Rangers upsetting the Devils, the Kraken falling to the Avalanche and the Wild knocking off the Stars. And there was other insightful commentary such as my statement that the Panthers had zero chance to beat Boston if Sergei Bobrovsky was the starting goalie.
If you couldn’t figure out that was your clue to bet the house on “Bob” to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, that’s on you. On top of all that, I picked the Oilers to beat the record-setting Bruins in the Finals to win the Cup.
ASIDE: I always try to make it clear that NONE of my selections EVER should be used as the basis for any monetary wager. Hopefully all MHR readers and followers heeded that warning.
So, given those many ill-advised predictions, I would have to be pretty arrogant to think that anyone cared to read more of my thoughts about the surprising Finals matchup featuring one team from South Florida and another from the desert. So, the plan was to just let the festivities get started and see what interesting storylines might arise during the series.
But then something unexpected happened.
At about 7 p.m. Friday night, word began to spread like wildfire to all corners of the internet that Bark-Andre Furry, the unofficial mascot of the Vegas Golden Knights and a therapy dog who had brought countless smiles to sick children in the Vegas area and hockey fans all over the world, had passed away.
The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the Tweet was, “NO!?!”
Then I looked at it again; it had been posted from Bark’s Twitter account, as if it came from him directly, and said, “What a ride!” I knew that his health had deteriorated quite a bit over the last few months, and I had feared that the end might be near for the 14-year-old therapy dog who was always on the go.
But not RIGHT NOW; not as the Golden Knights were about to play in their second Cup Final since 2018. Not when we might still have a chance to see Bark and his little brother Deke-Henri Furry sitting in the Stanley Cup celebrating.
I held out hope that maybe he just was retiring once and for all from his therapy-dog duties. But as I investigated further, I noticed that his dates of birth and passing were included in the Tweet and saw the literally thousands of heartfelt responses from heartbroken people everywhere. Many of us joke frequently that we like dogs more than we like people. The response to Bark’s passing did nothing to refute that statement; it was as if we had all lost one of our own furry friends. It was as if a member of our own family had left us.
While I previously had a sense that the end might be near for him, I was shocked by the news and deeply saddened by it. With every response that I read and every photo of Bark brightening someone’s life that I stumbled upon, the feeling of sadness grew. Anytime I see someone Tweet about the passing of one of their pets it makes my heart hurt, but the extreme feelings I experienced upon hearing about Bark caught me off guard.
After reflecting briefly, it quickly became clear why I reacted as strongly as I did.
You see, Bark was not only a therapy dog for the children and other hospital patients he visited, but he also provided daily therapy for all of us who followed his Twitter account. And after two years of helping my own 6-year-old dog deal with epilepsy and the random and sometime extremely violent seizures that accompany it, I guess all the pent-up emotion that has come along with my own personal journey finally came to the surface and overflowed. Perhaps with everything our family has dealt with, the thought of possibly losing my own dog – as well as the passing of our yellow lab during the COVID shutdown – served as an emotional trigger.
Every day we could count on at least one post – and often several – of Bark bringing joy to someone else who probably needed the pick-me-up way more than most of us did. We would see him dressed up in one of his various VGK jerseys while attacking a stuffed animal resembling the Knights’ opponent that day, chomping on a victory sausage after a big Vegas win, celebrating an important VGK goal or lamenting a questionable call or tough loss. And then there were the photos of him is his beach attire, or golf outfit or even “naked” that would pop up on one of his “off” days.
He provided at least one smile a day, and more often it was many smiles.
Since 2017, Bark’s daily adventures brought smiles to the faces of so many people he never would meet in person during a period of our lives that was marked by so much uncertainty, fear, confusion, chaos, sickness and hate. One glimpse of his furry, smiling face alongside a beaming child who was dealing with something far worse than anything I could possibly fathom, was enough to turn my day around.
On more than one occasion if I was having a rough day, I would find myself pulling up this photo of Bark meeting his namesake, Marc-Andre Fleury, prior to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. If this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will. I’ve already looked at it several times since hearing the heartbreaking news Friday night.
Perhaps I feel a deeper connection to Bark because of an exchange I had with one of his owners – or as Bark might say, one of his bipeds – at one point several years ago. I shared a photo of my two dogs, Skipper and Fenway, on a Twitter message and came to find out that Bark-Andre Furry originally was named Fenway, but when the Golden Knights began playing in his hometown, he was renamed in honor of the goalie who had become the face of the franchise’s first season in the National Hockey League.
Fenway was our yellow lab who passed way in August 2020. He was an amazing, loving and friendly dog who always wore a smile and never saw a ball he didn’t want to fetch. We didn’t have him from birth, but instead took care of him for a family that was always on the go often enough that be eventually began living with us full time.
I think that every time I saw Bark’s smiling face it brought back fond memories of our own Fenway. Now, when I see his little brother Deke, I will think of both “Fenways” and I’m certain hat will bring a smile to my face. Knowing that Bark and Fenway can finally meet each other and run free together now also makes me happy. Maybe someday Skipper, my Shetland Sheepdog, and Deke can hang out and herd each other until they are both exhausted.
As you can probably gather at this point, this piece is not going to be providing any groundbreaking, advanced-stats-laden analysis of the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals. I took a crack at that before the playoffs started, and we all saw how that turned out.
Instead, the passing of such a special creature caused me to take more of an interest in a series that I previously hadn’t had strong feelings about. In thinking about and researching the Finals after learning about Bark’s passing, I realized that the series was unfairly flying under the radar and not getting the attention it deserves.
I wanted to write something in Bark’s memory to honor him and to help generate more interest in a series that, upon further review, really is quite fascinating.
Here are some of the intriguing storylines for this year’s Stanley Cup Finals:
- For the first time since 2018, we are guaranteed to have a first-time Cup winner. That year the expansion Golden Knights fell to the Washington Capitals in five games.
- The Finals feature two coaches in the first year with their teams – Cassidy and Florida’s Paul Maurice – for the first time since 2016.
- Two teams from the most non-traditional of all non-traditional hockey markets have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s after all four of the conference finalists hailed from the non-traditional markets of Las Vegas, South Florida, North Carolina and Dallas. The only other time since 2000 you can argue that all four conference finalists called non-traditional markets home was in 2016 when Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, St. Lous and San Jose were represented. And calling Pittsburgh, which has produced five Stanley Cup winners since 1991, a non-traditional market, is a stretch. Say what you want about Gary Bettman, but he has overseen unprecedented hockey growth in the United States during his tenure.
- Vegas owner Bill Foley predicted in the days leading up to his team’s first year of play in the NHL that the Golden Knights would win a Stanley Cup within six years of starting up. This is season six.
- The Panthers needed a miracle to even make the playoffs. After spending most of the season in the Atlantic Division basement, they rallied with a late surge but didn’t secure the last seed in the Eastern Conference until the lowly Chicago Blackhawks beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh’s final home game. Florida proceeded to upset Boston, the greatest regular-season team in NHL history, in seven games before winning eight postseason contests in a row against the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes, the league’s second- and fourth-best regular-season clubs. The eight-game postseason win streak is the second-longest in NHL history.
- Florida has never won in Las Vegas, but the Panthers have gone 3-1 in Boston, 3-0 in Toronto and 2-0 in Raleigh during this year’s playoffs. Florida has already knocked out the NHL’s No. 1, 2 and 4 regular-season teams. The Golden Knights finished the year fifth overall in the NHL but were the top Western Conference team. The Panthers finished 17th in the overall regular-season standings.
- Despite winning the Vezina Trophy twice, Bobrovsky has been considered a career postseason underachiever, posting a career playoff record of just 27-31 to go along with a pedestrian 2.91 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. That includes his phenomenal 2023 run, during which he is 10-2 with a 2.21 GAA and .936 save percentage. He has saved 19.7 goals above expected in this year’s playoffs, 11.2 better than the next-best goaltender and 13.3 better than Vegas’ Adin Hill, the No. 3 postseason netminder.
- Hill’s story may be even more amazing than Bobrovsky’s. Never considered the team’s starter, Hill appeared in 27 regular-season games and was 16-7 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage. He wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar after Vegas acquired veteran Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline, and Hill opened the playoffs backing up Laurent Brossoit. But an injury to Brossoit early in the postseason thrust Hill into a starting role, and since then he has been the third-best playoff goalie statistically. Hill has gone 7-3 with a 2.07 GAA and .937 save percentage as the starter, stopping 5.7 goals above expected.
- Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy was fired after a disappointing 2021-22 season in Boston. The Bruins turned in the best NHL regular-season ever in 2022-23, while Cassidy quietly led the Golden Knights to the most points in the Western Conference and the fifth-best total overall. The Bruins were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Florida, Cassidy’s opponent in the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals.
The final storyline is the one that prompted me to write about this year’s Stanley Cup Finals. This year marks the third time since 2019 that a team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup may be motivated by a higher calling.
In 2019, the St. Louis Blues rallied around Laila Anderson, who had been diagnosed with HLH, a rare, life-threatening autoimmune disease in which the immune cells grow out of control and attack the body internally, leading to organ damage. The Blues played for Laila every night, turning their season around and riding that emotion and energy all the way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Last spring, Edmonton caught fire late in the season when Ben Stelter, a 6-year-old who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, began attending games and other team events. He fought through multiple surgeries to remove the tumor and underwent numerous radiation treatments and several rounds of chemotherapy.
The team invited him to pregame skates, practices and postgame locker-room celebrations. He became a regular guest of the team during the Oilers’ 10-game winning streak and even traveled to away playoff games as Edmonton made a deep run to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated by eventual-champion Colorado.
Ben even got to meet Bark-Andre Furry last year before passing away in August. Ben’s dad, Mike, Tweeted that he knew who would be giving Bark his first hug in heaven.
This year, on the eve of hosting the Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time since 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights learned of the passing of their unofficial team mascot and community ambassador. It was reported that Bark visited the team’s practice facility to say final goodbyes Friday.
Let it be written here that the Golden Knights will win a Stanley Cup for the pup.
You had such a positive impact on so many and made a difference in the lives of so many young people during your short time with us - just like Ben and Laila did. And like Ben, you will be missed every day.
Maybe we will get to see your little brother smiling that same smile you were famous for while sitting in that Cup you wanted to drink out of so badly very soon.