Anthony Petruzzelli assisted on 16 goals for the Komets this season, but none compared to the assists he made off the ice.
The 26-year-old forward has been fostering dogs for Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control since last summer. The first six dogs he had have been adopted.
“It's an awesome feeling,” Petruzzelli said.
Petruzzelli was left with more time to work with his seventh foster dog, Jasmine, a boxer mix who has anxiety issues, after the Komets' season was canceled Saturday because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We're currently trying to find her a forever home,” Petruzzelli said. “She's going to have to find someone who has a little more time than the normal owner, or has other animals around to keep her a little company. Whenever I leave for practice, I have to leave the TV on Animal Planet just to keep her entertained.”
The lifestyle of a professional hockey player isn't always conducive to having a pet – Petruzzelli lives alone in an apartment and is gone often on road trips – so his own dog, Rosie, an Olde English Bulldogge, has been living with his girlfriend in Vermont.
“I've had dogs, and I have a dog back in Vermont,” Petruzzelli said. “Unfortunately, with our schedule, it's difficult to have her here all the time. I started working with the shelter here and they needed some fosters. I've taken in seven dogs now and will have them anywhere from three days to a week, maybe two weeks at a time.”
After Rosie gets adopted, and she was to meet a potential family Tuesday night, Petruzzelli will likely go back to Vermont for the summer.
Petruzzelli wasn't always a dog person, but he became one over the last six years or so.
He'd experienced caring for one with an illness and then had his first puppy, and that helped prepare him for his work with Animal Care & Control.
Animals are a passion of many within the Komets' organization, from the players up to ownership, and the team tries to raise awareness for institutions including the Allen County SPCA.
The Komets' game that had been scheduled for last Friday was to have been themed after the 1994 Jim Carrey movie, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” and the specialty jerseys were to be auctioned off to benefit H.O.P.E. for Animals, a spay/neuter and wellness clinic. But the ECHL had already suspended play because of the coronavirus.
However, look for those jerseys to be used next season. (A Marvel night in which the Komets were to wear Groot jerseys was also lost.)
Some Komets players were making monthly visits to Animal Care & Control to spend time with the animals in need of social interaction so they could be adopted, and Petruzzelli was the most involved.
“We have our visits there and go and play with dogs once a month or so,” Petruzzelli said. “I just decided to ask them if they needed some fosters, just to see what I could do to help anything. And it's a nice thing for me to do, keeps me entertained while I've got all day doing nothing.”
Among the breeds Petruzzelli has fostered have been cattle dogs and a pitbull mix.
Some of his teammates this season, including Brett McKenzie and Brycen Martin, have also fostered dogs.
Teammate Chase Stewart adopted a dog that had lived with Petruzzelli.
“They're all sweet dogs and just want to be loved. Knowing they find these families, and forever homes, it's good,” said Petruzzelli, who had 17 goals and 33 points in 53 games this season for Fort Wayne (31-23-8), which seemed poised to get one of the Central Division's four playoff spots as it chased its first playoff championship since 2012 in the Central Hockey League.
For information on adopting or fostering pets from Animal Care and Control, visit www.cityoffortwayne.org/animal-care-and-control.html, or from the SPCA, visit www.allencountyspca.org/about.html.
Information on H.O.P.E for Animals' programs may be found at www.hope-for-animals.org.