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Preds Draw Inspiration From Dog on a Bone Mentality

Head Coach Peter Laviolette Developed Image of Dog "Stanley" to Help Motivate Team

by John Glennon @glennonsports / glennonsports@gmail.com

In the moments following the Predators' history-making win over St. Louis last Sunday, the pulsing strains of AC/DC's "Givin' the Dog a Bone" blasted from the home team's locker room.

A high-energy screamer, the hard-rock classic is not only the Predators' new victory celebration song - ever since the playoffs started - but also the latest addition to a growling, snarling canine theme that's gone on all season.

It was Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette who first put a touch of the dog into this year's team.

Seeking a hungry, aggressive mindset for the Preds during the preseason, Laviolette engineered the painting of a threatening blue bulldog on the front of the locker-room door. The sizable beast is clutching a bone between his pointed teeth, with "Speed" written on one side of the bone and "Attitude" on the other.

The implied message? Seize the puck, seize the game and protect both like a ravenous dog would a meaty bone.

"I think it's more just a mindset of how a team needs to play in order to be successful, the speed and the attitude," Laviolette said, recalling the origin of the bone-chomping bulldog.

"The look (of the dog) looked good. The stance of the dog looked good. Everything looked like it's something you would want your team to resemble.

"When you start something, you don't know where it's going to go. But this one is a good one. I think the guys like it."

Sure enough, the bulldog character soon found a nickname - "Stanley" in honor of the Stanley Cup - and the theme led to a Predators locker-room tradition following every victory.

The Preds' top player in a win was given a huge metal chain and padlock - symbolizing the dog-chain of the big bulldog. He draped it over his head and shoulders, stepped to the center of the room and offered a few inspirational words to teammates.

Video: Preds celebrate berth into Western Conference Final

Defenseman P.K. Subban earned the first award of the season with his strong opening-night performance against Chicago. It was Subban's choice to pick the second winner, and so on throughout the season.

Center Ryan Johansen was the most recent recipient following his series-winning goal against the Blues, and you can see Johansen wearing the chain when he delivers his fist-pumping, one-word speech in the locker-room afterward: "Pow!"

"Getting the dog-chain means you had a really strong night performance-wise," Predators forward Colton Sissons said. "You did something special to help us win a game. So everyone is pushing to get that because if everybody is earning that, it's a good thing for us."

Another memorable winner this year was forward Cody McLeod, who gained the chain following his very first game with the Preds, when he fought former teammate Jarome Iginla and scored a goal in Nashville's win over Colorado.

A picture of McLeod's toothless, smiling mug - dog-chain around his shoulders - now hangs in the Predators locker room. It's not far from another cartoon-like painting of the ill-tempered Stanley, one in which he has a bone in his mouth and is seemingly challenging the world to take it - the words "I Dare You" also gracing the image.

Video: NSH@COL: McLeod scores vs. Avs one day after trade

"No one is going to come in here and steal anything from us," Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "We're going to protect it. We're going to do everything in our power to defend what we stand for. It's sort of the same theme with trying to take a bone from a dog. That's what he's going to defend."

It should be noted that the big blue bulldog does have a bit of a soft side. Taped to one of Stanley's legs on the locker-room door is a band-aid with No. 56 written on it, a tribute to injured Predators forward Kevin Fiala.

But overall, scowling Stanley strikes a surly theme, which is exactly what Laviolette sought many months ago.

Preds defenseman Roman Josi says the animal is even more menacing than the dogs of teammate James Neal - a pair of pit bulls.

"They're pretty tough dogs," Josi said. "But Stanley is pretty strong. I'd be scared if I saw Stanley on the streets."

What better image could one ask for the Preds' dogged pursuit of the Stanley Cup?

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