(RAPID CITY, S.D.) – The Rapid City Rush, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, are proud to announce the 2021-22 Rush Puppy Project presented by Ebelution Heating and Cooling. The newest member of the team, a red lab puppy, will be introduced in-game during Marvel Super Hero Night featuring Black Widow, presented by CSL Plasma on Friday, December 31.
The soon-to-be-named puppy will be trained to be a service dog for a South Dakota veteran, just as Rush, the team dog from the 2019-20 season was. Rush winger and leading goal-scorer Stephen Baylis and his fiancée Kelsey Brewer-Jette will house and train the puppy, who will visit the locker room and be in the Rush administrative office on a daily basis.
“Kelsey and I are very excited to help out any way that we can,” said Baylis. “We appreciate what is being done for veterans in this area and are happy to contribute what we can with our free time.”
The puppy has been donated through the team’s partnership with South Dakota Service Dogs, a foundation started by Tony Russell, whose mission is to provide service dogs to veterans and first responders in need, eliminating lengthy wait times and high costs often associated with receiving a service animal. Russell, a retired United States Air Force Staff Sergeant, is the veteran who was paired with Rush at the completion of the 2019-20 Rush Puppy project in January of 2021.
“For me and my family, receiving Rush has been a life changing experience that is hard to put into words,” said Russell. “Looking around the Black Hills area, there are a lot of veterans and first responders who could benefit from a similar life changing experience. So we decided to start South Dakota Service Dogs to provide service dogs at no charge to them.”
“Bringing back the Rush Puppy project was a no-brainer for us,” said Spire Hockey President Todd Mackin. “I’m extremely proud of the impact that we were able to make for Tony and his family with Rush and am so excited to see what he’s building with South Dakota Service Dogs. This is an opportunity to do a lot of good for local veterans and it’s exciting to continue to be a part of it.”
The puppy will be introduced to the public during the game on Friday, which is Pucks and Paws Night in addition to Marvel Super Hero Night. Fans can bring their dogs to the game via a special ticket that can be purchased here.