TAMPA — Chance the lucky dog sits near the base of the ramp leading to the players' entrance at the St. Pete Times Forum without being told.
It is the big yellow lab's favorite spot. It almost seems as if he waits for Lightning players, who on game days park their cars nearby, to come and play with him, or at least rub him behind the ears.
Chance gives an eager response — tail wags, face licks and perhaps a little luck.
The Lightning, you see, is 7-0-0 this season when Chance attends games. And there is the story of wing Marty St. Louis, in a one-goal, 14-game slump, scoring three goals in two games after petting the dog.
"I love Chance," St. Louis said. "I'll adopt that dog. You know what Chance means in French? Luck. So I needed a little luck. I needed a little Chance."
Rob Allaer, longtime producer of Lightning games for Sun Sports, has owned Chance for six years. The dog's first name was Catch.
But when he was adopted, at 6 months and 75 pounds, from an aunt of Allaer's wife, Beth, the name changed after a conference with sons Cameron, 11, Nolan, 9, and Austin, 3.
"We weren't sure we were going to keep him because he was so big and was all over the house," Allaer said. "Cameron decided to call him Chance because we were going to give him a chance to stay with us."
Now, just more than 5 feet tall on hind legs and 115 pounds, Chance is a fixture. Allaer began bringing him to games around Thanksgiving and Christmas because "I didn't want to leave him home alone" when the rest of the family was away visiting relatives.
Chance hangs out in the production truck while Allaer works. Pregame he is tied outside the truck near the players' entrance.
"They love him," Allaer said. "Very few guys walk past and don't come over. He brings out the kid in them. They'll just come over and hug him. He loves the attention."
"He's just very friendly," St. Louis said. "He welcomes you. He loves for you to come over and pet him. I love that."
Allaer dissuades opponents from approaching.
Why share the luck?
"I tell them he's a little skittish," Allaer said, "and might bite."
That Tampa Bay won the first five games Chance attended was cute but not especially noteworthy. That changed in February.
Chance had not been to a game since around Christmas. The Lightning was in a 0-1-2 slump. "People in the truck were saying, 'You better bring him back,' " Allaer said.
He did, and Tampa Bay won its next two, Feb. 23 and 25 against the Coyotes and Devils, and St. Louis found his scoring touch.
Coach Guy Boucher joked he will give Chance a stall in the locker room with a nameplate. Defenseman Victor Hedman offered to keep Chance in his room on road trips. Team CEO Tod Leiweke, after the 8-3 win over Phoenix, sent Chance a steak from the Times Forum kitchen as a reward.
"If you're not a little superstitious, you haven't been in this business long enough," Leiweke said. "So far, on my watch, the dog is pretty good."
• • •
Can an animal really bring a team good luck?
"You never know," defenseman Randy Jones said. "Look at that (rally monkey) in Anaheim (for the Angels)."
Right wing Teddy Purcell was skeptical: "I'm not a huge believer in that stuff." But then he admitted, "Yeah, I'll probably give him a little rub."
Safe to say Chance will have plenty of company before tonight's game with the Canadiens. The Lightning has lost two straight, both on the road. Its Southeast Division lead over the Capitals is down to one point.
"There's pressure to bring him," Allaer said. "My kids are into it now. They want me to bring him to every game. I try to temper it. 'You don't want to waste all the luck.' "
Still, how can you not take the chance?