There are probably a lot of items that have been brought on team charters that we’ll never know about.
But a 100-pound German shepherd named Ryback?
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Capitals forward Eric Fehr when asked if he’s ever witnessed a dog on a team flight. “I was watching my movie and the guys were playing catch with it in the aisle.”
When Dustin Penner was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Capitals on March 4, he left behind two dogs, Ryback, and a 170-pound mastiff named Jerry. Both were left with his parents [Twitter photo here]. But with the Caps playing against the Ducks in Anaheim, then leaving from San Jose four nights later, Penner asked Capitals general manager George McPhee if his dog could hop a ride back to D.C.
“I just asked if it would be possible to bring a dog back,” Penner said. “It’s traveled from Europe, so it’s OK with flying. Everyone wanted him to come on the plan, so he just laid on the floor for 4½ hours.”
Well, at least for most of the Capitals’ return flight, as evidenced on Alex Ovechkin's Instagram. According to teammate Troy Brouwer, the flight attendant and a few other teammates played catch with Ryback, tossing a toy duck up and down the aisle.
“I was the Dad, he was the kid, and everybody else were the grandparents who wanted to play with him,” Penner said. “I had to be responsible and tell him to lie down.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates joked that Ryback was bigger than most of the players on the team and said it “made sense” that the club allow him on the return flight.
The Capitals picked up five of a possible six points against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks and find themselves tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 10 games to play.
Penner, who is still looking for his first goal after 10 games with the Caps, said this is no time for his teammates to pat themselves on their backs.
“That trip was about an A-minus,” he said. “Five points against some pretty tough teams. We should be happy, but this time of year you can only look forward. There’s no time to rest on our laurels and feel good about ourselves. It should be playoff mentality now.”
As for his plans on reuniting Ryback and Jerry, Penner says they may need to wait until the offseason.
“He has another half-brother at home,” Penner said, “but he’s 70 pounds heavier and I think we would have exceeded the weight limit.”