By now every Zamboni driver this side of Saskatoon knows the story of William Karlsson, who went from a scorer of six goals with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season to scorer of 43 in this most monumental one with the Golden Knights. As far as reclamation projects go, it doesn’t get any better than Wild Bill’s.
Unless, perhaps, it is the legend of Stanley the ceramic rooster.
Stanley the rooster is a golden statuette that was presented to the Knights by well-wishers at Mandarin Oriental in advance of the NHL Draft Lottery in Chicago in June 2017 — a Year of the Rooster, according to Chinese astrology.
The golden bird stands about 18 inches tall. It has grayish-black tail feathers, a yellow beak and red face, cockscomb and wattles, those fleshy flaps of skin that sort of resemble the throat protector hanging from a goalie’s mask and helmet. Only on a rooster there are two.
Stanley was supposed to bring the Knights good luck and a low number when the ping-pong balls came shooting through the tube to determine the draft selection order. Vegas wound up with the sixth pick among the 15 teams that did not participate in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Knights selected Cody Glass, a center for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks.
More like cock-a-doodle-don’t according to Knights’ president Kerry Bubolz.
“Last year we got off to a little bit of a rough start with Stanley,” Bubolz said in the run-up to Game 1 of Monday’s improbable Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena pitting the upstart Knights against the Washington Capitals, an upstart in their own right.
Nothing against Cody Glass, an outstanding prospect who scored 37 goals with 65 assists for Portland before being called up to the Chicago Wolves for the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs. But the Knights were hoping that a strategic rub of Stanley’s head would have netted the No. 1 pick, or at least a top 3.
During the 1999 NBA Draft Lottery, former Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roesner wore a sports jacket with a pattern of the Clippers’ home jersey and a red No. 1 stitched into the lining. When the Clippers did in fact draw the No. 1 ping-pong ball, they selected Blake Griffin.
The Knights were hoping Stanley’s presence would result a similar result.
“We actually had him with us the night of the lottery draft selection and things didn’t go as well that night,” Bubolz said. “We were hoping to get the No. 1 pick and we ended up with the No. 6. Luck wasn’t following the way we had hoped.”
Word around Knights headquarters was that Stanley had been banished to a broom closet after failing to produce, a rumor which Bubolz — perhaps fearing reprisal from the PETA folks — would neither confirm nor deny.
“He didn’t sit out in the office as proudly displayed,” was all the Knights’ executive would say with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Stanley took like a couple of months’ break. But once we got close to the season (starting) we brought him back out again. He’s brought us great luck ever since.”
According to the Chinese zodiac, the rooster possesses the following personality traits: Foresighted, ambitious, meticulous, independent. But unlike most barnyard roosters, Stanley tends to keep a low profile, Bubolz said. He will never be confused with Mister Ed, the talking horse. Stanley never speaks, not even when he — or the L.A. Kings’ Drew Doughty — has something to say.
“Stanley continues to have a prominent place right inside our offices,” Bubolz said of the ceramic bird’s perch at City National Arena where the Knights practice and conduct business. “He sits there every single day and we say ‘Hi’ to him as we walk in. That’s how the rooster works.
“He’s just one of many examples of the superstitions in this great game — the playoff beards, obviously, is one of those,” added Bubolz, stroking chin whiskers more spotty than those of the team’s Scandinavian players. “It’s been something fun for our business team to enjoy, and now Stanley is a great part of our run for the Stanley Cup.”
It’s almost as if the Year of the Rooster never ended, and the Year of the Dog wound up being a healthy scratch.