The biggest star at Stanley Cup Final media day doesn't play for the Boston Bruins or St. Louis Blues. He's 18-month old "Today" show dog Sunny, who roamed the interview room the day before the Cup Final begins, interacting with players in collaboration with NBC Sports and the Guide Dog Foundation.
Sunny brought cards with questions on them to players to read and got plenty of pets and kibble out of the deal. When he jumped up and did a trick with Robert Thomas, the Blues forward said, "This made my day," and a lot of other players seemed to enjoy having a four-legged reporter - complete with his own media credential - asking them questions.
It also had a real-life benefit.
"He is learning to be a guide dog through the Guide Dog Foundation, and he needs to be cool, calm and collected in every setting possible," said Guide Dog Foundation public relations manager Allison Storck, who was also among Sunny's handlers Sunday. "Just like people, dogs do the best work when they feel safe and secure and they're not concerned. So coming to these environments and getting to adapt and adjust is really great practice for when he gets matched with somebody who's blind or visually impaired. He's going to be able to have his top focus and be able to do his best work because he's going to be so used to everything."
The idea came from NBC Sports' marketing department after spotting Sunny at a New York Islanders game. The Blues are among the NHL teams with dogs who are also being trained for service.
Storck said Cup Final media day was a great training opportunity for Sunny's future job.
"Every time he goes to interact with a player, he's practicing a service dog skill," she said. "So he's taking an item, going to deliver it and then staying until I call him back. So great training and great excitement."
St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn skated with teammates during practice in preparation for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but his status is still uncertain.
Dunn practiced in a full face shield for the second consecutive day. He did not do rushes on any of the top three defensive pairings, an indication he might miss a fourth game in a row with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Forward Robert Thomas, who was injured in Game 6 of the Western Conference final Tuesday and declared fine by coach Craig Berube, was not on the ice for practice Sunday.
Game 1 of the final is Monday night.
Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy says Brad Marchand took a maintenance day off from practice and is good to go for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday against the St. Louis Blues.
Marchand did not practice with the rest of the team, and Karson Kuhlman took his spot in line rushes.
Marchand injured his left hand in the team's intrasquad scrimmage Thursday but practiced Saturday. He says his hand is just fine.
He says getting dinged up in practice is just part of the game.
Brad Marchand was not on the ice for the Boston Bruins' last full practice before the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.
Marchand injured his left hand in the team's intrasquad scrimmage Thursday but practiced Saturday. Karson Kuhlman skated in Marchand's place on the Bruins' top line with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on Sunday, which could indicate good news about the feisty winger being available for Game 1 Monday night.
Marchand is Boston's leading scorer in the playoffs with 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists. He had 100 points on 36 goals and 64 assists during the regular season.
Defenseman Kevan Miller remains out with a lower-body injury.
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