There’s been a thief at Harley-Davidson Arena. This season, several Milwaukee Hogs players have reported items going missing from their lockers: deodorant, combs, sunglasses, stick tape. None of the items were particularly large or valuable, but the disappearances sent an understandable wave of unease through the team.
“It’s one of those things you take for granted,” said Hogs G Hobie Sanford. “You leave stuff in your locker, and you expect it’s still going to be there when you get back. You don’t even think twice about it, and it’s uncomfortable to have to start wondering.”
Naturally, the clubhouse managers took immediate steps to identify the perpetrators. Initial suspicion fell on the arena cleaning crew, but players reported items going missing during games, when the cleaning crew was not present. The clubhouse managers tracked the comings and goings in the locker room, but did not notice anyone unusual, while items continued to disappear.
For the first couple weeks of the season, the low-level mystery persisted. When players began reporting watches and wallets missing, however, the situation became impossible to ignore. So the managers installed cameras throughout the locker room. Eventually, they were able to identify the thief: a cat.
“Turns out that we have a felonious feline among us,” said Hogs GM Carlton Neilson.
The cat, who apparently lives within the arena, accessed the locker room by way of an HVAC duct. He snuck into the players’ lockers and made off with whatever he could carry in his mouth.
“Thanks to the cameras we had installed, we were able to catch the perpetrator red-handed – or red-pawed, I should say,” said Neilson.
By tracing the cat’s path back through the ductwork, the clubhouse managers were able to locate his stash, which included virtually all of the items reported missing over the last several weeks. Some of them were a bit worse for wear, but most were intact.
“We’re happy to discover that no one associated with our organization was involved in the thefts,” said Neilson.
Once the offender was identified and the missing items returned, the Hogs planned to turn the cat in to a nearby shelter. But the players demanded clemency for the thief.
“We wanted to show there were no hard feelings,” said C Greg Enrath. “Besides, he’s a cute little guy.”
The cat now has a name – Oliver (as in Twist) – and he has a new home inside the clubhouse. He has a bed and an ample supply of cat toys to keep him from being tempted to resume his old disreputable ways.
The players enjoy spending time with him before and after practices and games. He’s even appeared in videos on the Jumbotron during games.
“Playing in the minors isn’t the easiest life,” said Sanford. “That’s why we love Oliver: because we’ve all felt like him at some time or another. He gets us.”
There is one Milwaukee figure who’s not as entranced by the story: coach Geoff Matson, who is allergic to cats. “I just keep my door shut,” he said.