Hockey players, no matter the level of activity, are considered to be some of the most hard-bitten athletes in all sports. The game is fast and furious. There’s no more fan more loyal than a hockey fan. The National Hockey League has long ranked as the premier hockey league in the world.

But there’s another side to a hockey player, a hockey team. They love dogs. Not underdogs on ice. We mean those cute little four-legged creatures that have a special way of melting the hearts of their owner or anyone else who cares about animals.

According to USA TODAY, NHL teams are as thrilled to acquire a dog these days as they would landing a scoring right wing. Ten teams now boast official team dogs, and that number might grow because team dogs are becoming as popular as players.

“I can’t tell you how many selfies our little dude (Smash) is a part of in the course of a game,” Predators chief operating officer Michelle Kennedy told USA TODAY Sports. “You always see him on the concourse snuggled with someone taking a picture.”

The Predators, Coyotes, Wild, Canadians, Islanders, Senators, Blues, Sharks, Lightning and Capitals are teams with dogs.

“The guys have loved our dog,” Capitals forward Nic Dowd told USA TODAY Sports. “There’s not much you can’t like about a puppy. And he’s really well-behaved for how young he is. The guys have enjoyed him.”

The Capitals’ new 11-week old puppy, named Captain, walked on the opening night red carpet with team captain Alex Ovechkin and he was an instant crowd pleaser. Captain is a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix.

Erica Sandidge, the Capitals’ marketing coordinator, said the decision to adopt a dog was a response to popular demand.

“A lot of our players have dogs and a lot of fan groups had posted to us that they were hoping we would get a dog,” Sandidge said. “We had a lot of support for dogs within the community.”

The Capitals are working through America’s Vet Dogs, a New York-based organization that trains service dogs for disabled veterans and first responders. Captain is being trained as a service dog, meaning he will be with the team for only 14-16 months. He then will be given a permanent placement as a service dog.

There’s much more to the inspiring story of dogs and hockey teams, and the purpose they’re being trained for. So many good things will happen when these dogs have completed their training and move into the big leagues where they’ll serve a special assignment.