Charlotte Checkers team up with nonprofit to help train service dog

The Charlotte Checkers' newest acquisition has a nose for the puck and is an absolute dog on the ice. No, literally he’s a dog on the ice.

His name is Calder after the name of the championship trophy in the American Hockey League, the Calder Cup.

“Who doesn’t like having a little puppies running around?" asked Checkers Forward Andrew Poturalski.

Calder is training to be a service dog through Project2Heal, a nonprofit organization that breeds, nurtures, and trains labrador retrievers and then donates them, at no cost, to the best service dog organizations across the country.

Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci and Project2Heal director Charlie Petrizzo, met last year when Vellucci’s daughter’s dog trained with the nonprofit organization. They bonded over their love for dogs and hockey and decided to team up.

“He’ll train with the Checkers in very high stress environments,” said Petrizzo. “At games with loud noises, pucks banging off walls. This is exactly what he needs for a dog in training.”

He’ll be at select practices and games for the next year and a half.

“At the end of that training period we’ll choose a local resident who has a special need or is a veteran and donate this dog to them together,” said Petrizzo.

You can catch Calder at the Checkers game Sunday, January 20th at the Bojangles’ Coliseum at