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28 posts from April 2007

April 29, 2007

Goodnight Rochester

Rochester_4 While the Panthers minor league affiliate did better than their parents and at least made it to the postseason, the Rochester Americans didn't stay for long.

Rochester got knocked out of the opening round of the AHL playoffs Saturday, losing to the Hamilton Bulldogs. You can read the story here courtesy of our friends at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: ROCHESTER IS KNOWN FOR ITS RED HOTS

On the ECHL side, the Florida Everblades and Texas are tied at 2-2 in their opening round. Coverage of this series is from our friends from across the River of Grass at the Naples Daily News: EVERBLADES IS A COOL NAME

I'm "working" at the Heat game right now, so the hockey news is light.

-- JM was supposed to be at Saturday's game in Hamilton, and says he plans to fly to Russia on Tuesday for the World Championships.

April 26, 2007

A New Role

JoecupoJoe Nieuwendyk -- Stanley Cup champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, former Florida Panther -- is about to add something new to his resume.

The Panthers will announce tonight that the recently retired Nieuwendyk will join their front office as a special consultant to general manager Jacques Martin. What Joe's role will be hasn't been announced; he's going to talk to us tonight at the team's cookout at CSA to expound on his new responsibilities.

Nieuwendyk, 40, retired in December because of chronic back pain. After taking off for a few weeks, he and Martin had a meeting at the arena, and Nieuwendyk was around the team ever since.

April 25, 2007

Road Trip

SmonicapierWhile it's nice to be home after a season filled with travel, I would much rather be watching these playoff games from close rather than afar.

Good thing I have someone to live vicariously through. His name? Dave Strader. Dave, you may remember, is the TV play-by-play voice of the Florida Panthers. In the Panthers offseason (AKA: The Stanley Cup Playoffs), Dave works for Versus calling said playoff games.

Dave is in Anaheim for the opening two games of the Anaheim/Vancouver series, and seems to be having fun. He's blogging on floridapanthers.com, so if you'd like to read his rants and ravings, check out his blog page: DAVE STRADER AINT NO DENIS POTVIN

See, I don't mind a little blogging competition. There's plenty of room for hockey talk out here in cyberspace.

-- Speaking of cyberspace, the Panthers change up their official website Thursday morning. Check it out at, uh-huh, floridapanthers.com

-- The Panthers two minor league affiliates are doing OK in their respective playoff seasons. In the AHL, the Rochester Americans tied up their series with Hamilton, Ont., with a victory on Tuesday. That series is 2-2 and headed back to War Memorial (not the one from Slap Shot) on Thursday.

In the ECHL, Estero's very own Florida Everblades went into their game Wednesday with a 1-0 series lead against  Texas, only to watch that lead disappear as the Wildcatters won 5-0 Wednesday at Germain Arena. Speaking of the Wildcatters, can't find out whether Jamie "Whacking Stick" McLennan is still a part-owner of that team or not. He was, don't know if he still is.

-- Post below states the Panthers only have two players competing in the World Championships. Well, forgot that D Cory Murphy (famously of Kanata, Ontario) is playing for Team Canada. Murph the Surf has never suited up for the Panthers but I'm counting him anyways.

Petegriffin Also, JM says he plans to be at the arena Thursday night for the big BBQ; he flies to Russia for the WC on Friday. Got to love that flight to Russia. Think I'll loan him my PSP and Wayne Gretzky game (actually, I'm betting JM would rather watch Family Guy Seasons 1 and 2).

-- Speaking of JM, Russia and the World Championships: the big news out of Stockholm is that former Florida GM Mike Keenan is back in the hockey business as a senior advisor to the Swedish National Team. Keenan, who "resigned" from the Panthers last Sept., had been working at TSN as an analyst. According to TSN.com, Keenan's primary concern will be Sweden's under-20 and under-18 programs. They say Iron Mike has always worked well with kids. It must be his patient way. (Hope you got the sarcasm!)

"To be involved with a group and a country who have performed so well on the world stage with a strong emphasis on improving is very flattering," Keenan told TSN. 

"I'm looking forward to another opportunity to learn more about hockey and I'm humbled they respect me and the Canadian perspective enough to ask me. It's all about new ideas. Both for Sweden, and for me."

Good luck to Mike and his new endeavors. And here's to hoping the Herald sends me to Sweden this summer to do a big story on Mike (and all the scenery that country is known for). Giggity, giggity.

Sweden Quagmire

Peltonen's Return

VilleThe Panthers plan to announce today that winger Ville Peltonen has agreed on a new contract. Don't know years or numbers, but Pelts made $795,000 last season so expect a bit of a raise (and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a two-year deal).

Peltonen had a very productive season with the Panthers. After spending five seasons in Europe, Peltonen -- who once played in Nashville -- set career highs with 17 goals and 20 assists.

Will have more on this at MiamiHerald.com when it comes available. JM says he's going to address the local media later this afternoon. Ville is in Finland preparing for the World Championships that start later this week in Russia.

Ville still has some legal things going on after the Nikki Beach incident on South Beach earlier this month, but my people tell me he's going to plead out and take a first-time offenders deal. As long as he stays out of trouble, this thing is over.

-- The good folks at the NHL pass along this little tidbit from the Elias Sports Bureau: In their seven-game victory over Dallas, Vancouver only led for 45 minutes and 55 seconds (9 percent) of the 512:15 of that game. The first-round lead-time figures for the other Conference Semifinalists (by percentage of total playing time): New York Rangers 166:00, 69.2%; Ottawa Senators 179:09, 59.7%; Buffalo Sabres 171:54, 57.3%; Anaheim Ducks 153:18, 51.1%; New Jersey Devils 173:55, 46.6%; San Jose Sharks 147:46, 45.0%; Detroit Red Wings 154:39, 40.2% .

The Rangers trailed only 7:11 (or 3%) of the 240 minutes in their first-round sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers.

-- Also from the NHL: With the retirement of Scott Mellanby, Vancouver's Trevor Linden (1,323 regular-season games) becomes the tenured player still looking for his first Cup. Anaheim's Teemu Selanne (1,041) is next.

April 24, 2007

The Rat Craze

Ratcat Everyone loves a good story, and since the Panthers haven't had too many of late, here's an oldie but a goodie.

My friend Dave Sheinin came across Scott Mellanby's one-timer of a poor rat inside the Miami Arena locker room during the 1995-96 home opener. Thought some might enjoy reading the story that started it all. So here you are. Dave, by the way, was The Herald's golf writer at the time. Ended up moving on to cover the Marlins, then took on the Baltimore Orioles for the Washington Post. He's currently the Post's national baseball writer.

But he still asks about the Panthers whenever I see him. He loves the rat story. And, why wouldn't he?

Published: Monday, October 9, 1995
Section: SPORTS
Page: 4D


Herald Sports Writer

Scott Mellanby scored three goals in Sunday night's 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames.

You only saw two of them.

The first one took place in the locker room before the game. The Panthers were dressing for the game when a big, ugly rat came scampering among the equipment bags.

Not missing a beat, Mellanby grabbed a stick and one-timed the poor creature against the wall. End of rat.

"He looked like Seve Ballesteros," said Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, describing Mellanby's rat-smacking form.

Mellanby, of course, went on to score two slightly more conventional goals in the first period of Sunday night's game. He had a few more chances during the rest of the game, but couldn't convert another.

And so Mellanby still has never scored a hat trick in his 10-year career, and the Panthers have never had one in their history.

"Yeah," joked Vanbiesbrouck, "but he scored a rat trick."

Mellanby's two goals were almost picture-perfect twins. Both came in the first period. Both answered Calgary goals and tied the score. Both came on power plays. And both were on deflections.

The first came on a blast by Magnus Svensson from the left point, the second on a shot by Jason Woolley from just inside the blue line.

The Panthers' point men have taken the coaching staff's advice and are firing away from the point on power plays to make things happen.

"Woolley was teeing it up from everywhere," Panthers Coach Doug MacLean said. "Gord Murphy, Svensson -- they all did a great job, and Mellanby scored on two nice deflections."

Eleven times in club history, a Panthers player had scored two goals in a game. And 11 times, they failed to get the hat trick.

But when Mellanby scored his second -- with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the first period -- he admits the thought crossed his mind.

"When you score two in the first period like that, you think about it," Mellanby said. "I've never had one in my career, unfortunately."

And he had his chances. On another power play in the second period, he took a feed from Murphy in the slot and found himself open, but he didn't get off a good shot. On the same power play, he took another feed from Rob Niedermayer outside the crease, but missed the empty side of the net.

"I should have buried that one," Mellanby said. "I guess that shows it wasn't meant to be."

By converting two of his three shots-on-goal, Mellanby seems to have put his scoring jinx of 1994 behind him. Last year, he led the team in shots but was just third in scoring. He converted only 10 percent of his shots. At times, he got frustrated.

This year was almost guaranteed to be different. MacLean put him on a line with the rejuvenated Niedermayer and the talented rookie Radek Dvorak. "Those guys are both extremely talented players," Mellanby said. "I'm sure I'll get my chances."

That line got shut out Sunday night, but Mellanby made up for it with his power play goals.


Rats_2'Rat-isfaction Guaranteed was actually a Miami Herald headline during the 1996 playoffs. Only reason I remember it was because my friend Noell Barnidge (then working with me on the desk) suggested it and the editors loved it.

Never has a region fallen in love with rats like South Florida did that year. The reason, of course, was thanks to Scott Mellanby. Read all about it here: FOLLOW DA LINK

Mellanby Mellanby, who spent seven seasons with the Panthers, retired today at the age of 40. Mellanby spent 21 seasons in the NHL and had quite the career. He didn't win the Stanley Cup, sure, but his was a career that was full. Mellanby says he wants to stay in the game in some capacity, and I'm sure there's no shortage of people willing to give him that shot.

-- Ironic? On the day Mellanby hung up his skates, I laced mine on for the first time. Trying to learn how to ice skate this summer, and today was Day 1. As Olli Jokinen might say, it's harder than it looks. Got a good run going and did well at times. But then I fell hard on my left knee, and well, I called it a day. Going to give it another shot on Thursday.

So, you ask, how is it I never learned to skate? Well, I grew up in Miami and ice just wasn't available. I roller skated, sure, but that is quite a different deal. As I found out today.

-- The Panthers only have two players competing in the upcoming World Championships with Ville Peltonen (Finland) and Rostislav Olesz (Czech) off to Russia. Also, hearing a Ville signing is imminent.

April 23, 2007

Final Bell

YorockyFor my buck, nothing beats playoff hockey. Unless it's Game 7 of a playoff series.

That's why I'm so excited about tonight.

The only Game 7 of the opening round of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs is tonight in Vancouver when the Fighting Luongos try to score a goal in their game against visiting Dallas. I'm not expecting a lot of goals, so there's a lot of pressure to score first in this one. Both goalies have been outstanding in this series to date, with Dallas' Marty Turco erasing much doubt about his intestinal fortitude come playoff time by shutting out the Luongos three times.

Reason I mention this is I took a little bit of flack from folks not for using my Hart Trophy (MVP) vote on Luongo, but for my reasoning. I figured if you take Luongo off the Canucks, all that's left is an average team. I think this series has helped my argument. This Vancouver team is good, don't get me wrong, but they aren't anything special. Yet a win tonight and the Canucks have a chance to do something special.

-- Here's the dish: If the Luongos win, they open at second-seeded Anaheim on Wednesday at 10 p.m.; Dallas would start in Detroit on Thursday at 7:30.

-- The Panthers officially announced the charities that will benefit from Olli Jokinen's big season. In case you missed earlier reports here and in The Herald, Jokinen raised $21,000 after pledging $500 for every home goal and $250 for every home assist. Thanks to the support of sponsor Luggage Express, the total is $42,000 because they matched Jokinen dollar for dollar.

Olli's $21,000 is going to the American Cancer Society's R.O.C.K. Program, with the Luggage Express money going to the JAFCO Children's Foundation. A check presentation will be held at the team cookout Thursday evening at the arena.

Nice job by both Olli and Luggage Express for helping kids in this community as well as others.

-- Here's the schedule for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, as sent to me by the NHL:


April 21, 2007

Friday Night Fun

TruckfishingAfter watching the Isles/Sabres game Friday night, me and the boys went out fishing in the streets. Fishing, they say, is the next Nascar.

Props to Kris for submitting "Fans of On Frozen Pond Goofy Pic No. 1" of the summer.

There were more, but I'm saving some of them for slow days.

OK, this one was good too....


April 20, 2007

Sean Hill Suspended

Seanhill2 The Islanders playoff hopes took another hit as veteran defenseman Sean Hill was suspended by the NHL Friday for violating the league's performance enhancing drug program.

Hill, who played with the Panthers last year before being bought out, has been suspended for 20 games -- beginning immediately. And since Sean doesn't have a contract for next year, this suspension may mark the end of his career.

For Hill to play next year, he would have to sit out whatever games aren't covered this postseason. So, if the Islanders are knocked out tonight, Sean has 19 games left. And if this is it, what a tough way to go. Sean is in his 14th season and was a pretty standup guy throughout. Did you know he was a national champ at Wisconsin and played for Team USA at the 1992 Winter Olympics (see, things you learn at On Frozen Pond....)

I enjoyed my brief time covering Sean as a member of the Panthers last year. I was glad he landed on the Island and had a good year after being cut loose by Florida.

Sean was always a good guy to talk to after a win or a loss. This suspension doesn't change my thoughts on the guy. It just appears to me Sean felt he needed a little extra help keeping up with the youngsters. Sean just turned 37 and isn't nearly as quick or as fast as he used to be. If he thought going to some chemical would help fix some of that, well, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see what he has to say about this and see what kind of evidence the league has on him.

Yet a 20 game suspension in the middle of the postseason -- when the Islanders (who should be the feel-good story of the year but keep hurting their image) are fighting for their playoff lives -- tells me the league made sure this was a legit charge before dropping the hammer.

Just yesterday, the New York media turned to Hill to get his thoughts on the Sabres being in the middle of a do-or-die situation against the Sabres tonight in Buffalo. "I think we can use it as a motivational tool," Hill told Long Island's Newsday, regarding the apparent Brendan Witt goal that was called a no-goal in Wednesday's loss. "Things happen. You can't explain them."

I guess.

-- Back in the Sunshine State again, real happy to see temperatures back above the 70 degree mark. Right where they belong.

-- Happy Birthday to my boy Chicago Robb. Looking older every day, Chico. Here's an early gift. Don't say I never gave ya nothin'.


Yeah, that was mean. Here's a better one:


April 19, 2007

A Playoff Party -- With Bert

Bertplayoffs_2Looking to shake some things up, Detroit coach Mike Babcock moved former Panther legend Todd Bertuzzi to the team's second line.

So far, the plan has worked.

Bertuzzi, limited to only one game in this series against Calgary, scored Detroit's first goal Thursday night to make it 1-1 in Game 4, and as I type, made a pretty pass to give Detroit its second goal and a 2-2 score against the host Flames.

Bertuzzi hasn't had great memories of the postseason in his career, and was a little touchy about said subject at the start of this season. If Bertuzzi's Red Wings make it out of the first round, it will mark only the second time a Bertuzzi team has made it past the opening round.

Bertuzzi missed the first two games of this series with a concussion and was minus-1 in Tuesday's loss. He looks fired up tonight.

-- Good pick by me on the Penguins, eh? Not only did I pick them to beat the Sens in 7 last week, but this morning I picked them to win tonight's Game 5 and force a sixth game in Pittsburgh. Alas, Sens win 3-0. Good series for the Sens. They played fast and physical and now get some time off to watch other teams beat each other up. Good for them. Ray Emery looked pretty good out there, something that bodes well for the offensive-minded Sens for the duration.

Out in C-bus

DougmacWord out of Columbus is that Doug MacLean who has served as the Blue Jackets' president/GM/interim coach since Day 1 has been fired.

Check out The Columbus Dispatch's version of the story here: DOUG MAC

Columbus missing the playoffs again this season doesn't make this move much of a surprise. The Jackets were supposed to be a playoff team -- where have we heard that before? -- and just weren't. They fired their coach early in the season and brought in Ken Hitchcock but it wasn't enough. Columbus is the only team in the NHL to have never participated in the Stanley Cup playoffs; they came to life in 1999-2000.

96patch MacLean remains a popular figure in South Florida, as in his first year as coach of the Panthers, he led Florida to the 1996 Eastern Conference championship and a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. MacLean and the Panthers had another stellar season in 1996-97 (he coached the east in the All-Star Game) but he ended up getting fired early in the 1997-98 season for various reasons.

MacLean landed on his feet then, and I think he'll do so again. If he doesn't get back into a hockey front office or into coaching right away, he would be perfect for television. Very outgoing, well spoken and funny, MacLean would be a perfect in-studio host somewhere, be it Versus (make this happen Versus!) or in Canada.

-- One name being bounced around as MacLean's possible successor as GM: Rick Dudley. The former Florida GM (and interim coach) is currently assistant GM with the Blackhawks. No word on whether Mike Keenan has any interest. Heard he is enjoying the TV life right now.

-- According to AP, the Jackets went 172-258-62 under MacLean's watch. The Jackets were 33-42-7 this season.

-- The NHL Draft will be held in Columbus in June. Wonder if Doug attends? I think he does.

-- Speaking of former, fired Panthers, a certain goalie has people going ga-ga this postseason in Vancouver. Roberto Luongo leads all playoff goalies with a .950 saves percentage and is second with a 1.49 GAA heading into tonight's possible clinching Game 5.

Writes Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province: Another strong outing tonight will propel the Canucks into the second round for the first time in four years and launch a campaign to have a street named after Luongo.

Read more here: louie's doing OK, eh

Lexington, Ontario

LexingtonFound a hockey hotbed in the most unusual of places Wednesday night. If you are ever in Lexington, Kentucky and are in the mood to watch some hockey, just head downtown.

At the quaint and cool Brooklyn Pizza and Sports Bar, they have large hi-def screens lining the bar; more importantly they purchased the NHL Center Ice package and was very willing to show it off.

When I arrived last night, a few fellows were watching the Rangers/Thrashers tilt on MSG, and by my request, we quickly lined up the Sabres/Isles on Versus (another strong night for the Versus bunch, no?) and picked up the Lightning/Devils feed from CBC (had to explain to a friend who doesn't follow hockey that Canadian fans do indeed care about a game featuring teams from Tampa Bay and/or New Jersey.)

Honestly, I felt like I was in the middle of Canada and not college basketball country.

We all had fun watching the games, had some terrific pizza (shameless plug? You bet!) and watched some pretty good hockey.

-- Never did get to see my favorite UK fan during this trip though. Must be because it's the offseason. Ashkey
True story: Met Ashley once when The Herald sent me to Nashville to cover some NCAA regional action. Was outside on the corner when she came walking by. Said hello, she stopped, said hello and told me 'Go Cats!' Nice lady.

-- CBC had a very interesting stat last night. When the Devils/Bolts went into OT, it showed Martin Brodeur is second all-time with 19 playoff overtime losses. The leader? Your Eddie Belfour with 20.

-- So, Nashville's done, right?

-- Can Calgary keep it going tonight at the Saddledome and pull even with the Wings? I don't know. It's a shame those Flames don't play on the road with the same intensity as they do at home, no? They went from bums to stars in one day. Seriously. They looked like a team that was tanking in the first two games of this series.

-- Speaking of tanking, I know the Heat didn't have anything to play for, but come on. Losing to Orlando by 26? Looking forward to watching this opening round of the NBA playoffs, think the Heat has some trouble on its hands with a pretty good Chicago team. But if Miami plays up to its abilities and has its head right, Heat in 6.

-- Big night in hockey tonight. Three teams can take their series and join the Blueshirts in Round 2. The teams? The Fighting Luongos, Ottawa and those Mighty, Mighty Ducks. I think the Pens win and return to Pitt for Game 6.

-- Some Panther news: Olli Jokinen and Mike Van Ryn both had 'successful' wrist surgery on Monday. Haven't heard what's up with Jay Bouwmeester's injured hip, nor whether Steve Montador (nose) or Bryan Allen (hernia) had their scheduled surgeries. Sure they did, sure they were 'successful.' Ever hear a team come out and say a surgery was unsuccessful? Nope, me neither.

-- OK, here's another picture of Kentucky's most famous fan. Go Cats? Well, why not. Ashley2_2

April 18, 2007

Tank Job

FranktankBig talk these days over on the NBA side of the sports world regarding teams taking a dive in order to better their draft status. Or not playing hard because they don't care all that much because their team has been eliminated from the postseason.

The lack of effort sure seems to anger those fans who ponied up the big bucks to attend such games.

Hockey -- more specifically the NHL -- has plenty of problems. Their players tanking games or not giving optimum effort on any given night, well, aren't part of them.

Just look at the final week of the 2006-07 regular season. Teams like the Panthers, Hurricanes, Coyotes, Kings, Blues, et al, had nothing really to play for. Yet they played. Pride, it seems, means something in hockey. Giving your best means something too.

Take the Panthers for instance. They went to Tampa Bay with nothing to play for, yet the game was still important -- for other teams. A Tampa Bay win meant the Lightning and Thrashers would play for the divisional title in the season's final game. Yet the Panthers came ready to play and beat the Lightning, ending Tampa Bay's divisional hopes and gift-wrapping the title to Atlanta. Talked to Olli Jokinen and a few other players about this afterward and they said they owed it to the game to give everything they had. It was refreshing to hear such things. The Thrashers didn't know what kind of effort Florida would bring that night, but they expected the Panthers to give their best. The Panthers did just that.

I only bring up that example because I was there. There were plenty of other examples of teams giving their fans -- the ones laying out their hard-earned money -- something to cheer about in a season that may not have gone right.

-- Being the sports dork I am, I always like to hear what music players use during their introductions. This is a big deal in baseball more than other sports because the music is played either during a pitcher's warmups or prior to a guy coming to the plate. I've heard some good songs over the years, like Juan Pierre's music during his Marlins years.

But Tuesday night, I about choked on my hot dog when I heard Ken Griffey Jr.'s music at a game at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Griffey's song? The music from the fake commercial for 'Soul Glo' in the movie 'Coming to America.' It just came out of nowhere, a theme you're not expecting to hear at a ballgame. Trust me, a classic moment. Good job, Junior.

-- Speaking of Cincinnati, nice ballpark. I also visited the new Busch Stadium on this roadtrip, and that was nice too. Got to see two good games and try out the different tastes at both. At Busch, had some garlic fries; Cincy, a Skyline-chili covered hot dog.

-- On an unrelated note, I find that Tums and Rolaids both get rid of heartburn if you take them in large quantities.

-- Since I was at the ballpark last night, I missed that exciting Atlanta-New York tilt. And I once thought this Atlanta team could go far in the postseason. Don't know what happened to them in the second half of the season, but it's been a dramatic downturn for the Thrashers.

-- Big win for the Luongos last night, as Vancouver is one win from moving on to the second round. Looks like the coming out playoff party for Luongo, but how much grief does Marty Turco get if Dallas loses? So far, looks like Marty has played well enough to win. He just needs some offensive help.

-- Looking forward to tonight's games. The second period of that Isles/Sabres game Monday was pretty exciting. San Jose/Nashville should also be pretty good. I say a Sharks win tonight marks the end of the Sabretooths for another season.

-- Speaking of the Sharks, has anyone wondered why the Panthers don't skate onto the ice through the giant Panther head anymore? I've been told it's in rough shape and the players are scared of it collapsing on them. That giant shark the San Jose players skate out of is pretty tight. The Panthers might want to look at this again.

April 16, 2007

Goin' Bloggin

Vacation1For those of you thirsting for hockey news and notes from your favorite celebrities, NHL.com has something for you.

According to Versus' Christine Simpson, newly anointed Islanders fan Christy Brinkley has a blog of her own on the site. There isn't much here, but gosh dog it, we're talking about Christy Brinkley!

Enjoy: she's only a pool waitress rusty....

Picture Pages

Johncandy Planes, Trains and Automobiles is on Comedy Central right now. Just flipping around waiting for Hockey Night in Kentucky (on the road right now) to start. Enjoy the picture.

"Those aren't pillows!"


Down on the Farm

Field_of_dreamsBig doings up in Rochester. The Americans, the AHL team the Panthers share with the Sabres, starts the postseason on Thursday.

The Amerks took the second seed in the north and open with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Will try to keep folks up to date on the Amerks' postseason exploits here, On Frozen Pond.

-- Speaking of the Amerks, congrats to Florida prospect Janis Sprukts. He was named team MVP for this past season. Sprukts had 18 goals and 41 assists in 58 games with Rochester this year; in his short time with the Panthers (13 games), he had a goal and two assists. Looking forward to seeing him in training camp in Sept. The Panthers really seem to like what he brings.

All the Amerks awards are here CHECK OUT THE AMERKS, OK?

-- Condolences to the family of former Florida forward Gaetan Duchesne who died on Monday. Duchesne was 44. He played in 14 games with the Panthers at the end of the 1995 season. Here is the rest of the release put out by the Panthers:

Gaetan Duchesne, who played in the NHL for 14 seasons and helped the Minnesota North Stars reach the 1991 Stanley Cup final, died while training at a gym Monday.

Duchesne, 44, played in 13 games with the Panthers (1994-95), after being traded to Florida by San Jose on April 7, 1995. While playing for Florida he recorded one goal and two assists.

Duchesne played for five NHL teams - Washington, Quebec, Minnesota, San Jose and Florida - and retired after the 1994-95 season. The forward appeared in 1,028 NHL games, totaling 179 goals and 254 assists. He was in 84 playoff games.

Duchesne, born in Quebec, was an eighth-round draft pick of the Capitals in 1981 and made the NHL club out of his first training camp. After six seasons with Washington, he was traded to the Nordiques with Alan Haworth and a first-round draft pick - that turned out to be Joe Sakic -- for Dale Hunter and goalie Clint Malarchuk.

After helping Minnesota advance to the Stanley Cup final, where the North Stars lost to Pittsburgh in six games, he finished his career with the Sharks and Panthers.

Duchesne later worked as an assistant coach with the defunct Quebec Rafales of the IHL and the Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Duchesne is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son, Jeremy, who is a goaltender with the Val d'Or Foreurs of the QMJHL.

April 13, 2007

Playoff Fever

CowbellI've got a fever, and the only prescription is more playoff games.

Seriously, it's Friday afternoon and there are no games on. What is up wit dat? So far, some of the games have been dogs but most of the action has been pretty good I think. Going into Game 2s, lots of story lines. Can the Pens bounce back after getting dogged by the Sens? Can the Stars put away their 4 OT loss to the Luongos? Could Calgary be as bad as they looked last night (I hope not, I picked them to win that series!)

-- Good news for the suddenly white hot Islanders: Rick DiPietro has been cleared to play. That said, think you stick with Dubie. Backup Wade Dubielewicz has been great for them. You don't mess with a hot goalie in the playoffs, especially when dude won four straight at the end of the season to get you into the postseason. If he slips up, yeah, bring in the money man. But until then, Ted Nolan should let DiPietro get some more rest and see what happens.

-- The Rangers got their first postseason win since 1997 when they beat Atlanta. Sound familiar Florida fans? The Panthers last postseason win came in 1997, and it came against the Rangers.

Throwing it out there

Catscookout_2 The Panthers have made a few announcements; figured some out there might be interested, so here we go:

The team announced its 'Hometown Hockey Tour' starts this month with the StreetCats Festival at Incredible Ice on April 21. The team will also hold its first BBQ at the arena -- featuring Joe Nieuwendyk -- on April 26.

The Panthers will also be holding a draft party on June 26 at the Hard Rock. Should be fun. I'll be stuck in Columbus.

"Since the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993, we've seen hockey grow into a year-round sport n the South Florida community,'' team VP and general good dude Chad Johnson said in a statement. He adds the summer time activities are a good way to keep folks interested in hockey and keep the Panthers around in the general conscience.

If I'm in town, I like to attend these events, so I'll post anything that comes out of them here (or, you know, in the paper).

Csa_3 -- Also (slow news week, eh?), the team announced that its arena, based in north Weston, was ranked 11th nationally by the trade publication PollStar and was 19th worldwide as far as XXX goes in its first quarter rankings.

The Panthers are obviously quite proud of this accomplishment and point out that they ranked ahead of Staples Center in Los Angeles. Of course, the CSA doesn't have the USC band play at Panthers games like Staples Center has for the Lakers, so that drops them in my rankings. But those haven't come out yet, so .... PollStar also ranks CSA ahead of the Jersey dump (duh), the new Boston Garden (I can see that) and United Center in Chicago (I dunno...)

Team exec Michael Yormark says their goal is to break into the top 10 of the rankings.

We wish them luck in that.

-- New Penguins president David Morehouse said on XM Radio on Wednesday that Florida's arena is one the Penguins are looking at as they put together plans for a new Igloo in Steel City. He mentioned that CSA, Phoenix and one other (I was driving cross country at the time) were arenas the team liked and planned to take pieces of and include in their designs. We forget that CSA is a pretty nice arena, one of the nicest I've been to in the league. I just hope Alan Cohen and Michael Yormark are as committed to toning down the ads and commercials as they say they are. Then we can start calling the arena by its real name: Broward County Civic Center. Or something like that.

-- A good number of players are expected to have surgery next week, including Olli Jokinen, Mike Van Ryn, Bryan Allen (sports hernia), Steve Montador (nose), et al. Will update when the guys go under the knife. Both Olli and MVR are scheduled to have their wrists done Monday by the same doc.

April 11, 2007

South Florida Flavor

FloridaflavorThe opening day of the Stanley Cup playoffs sure had a South Florida feel, no?

It seemed like every where you looked Wednesday there was some link to the Florida Panthers. And, no, I'm not talking about Ed Belfour's guest appearance on Reno 911!

First, some started off the day with a tall glass of Florida orange juice and a copy of USA Today. Who was that on the cover of their playoff preview section? Why it's Gary Roberts and Todd Bertuzzi in their new unis.

The first game of the night -- major league props to Versus by the way -- featured Roberts and his new mates from Pittsburgh as they took on Ottawa (and Senators coach and former Florida bossman Bryan Murray).

Later, former Panther franchise goalie Roberto Luongo made his postseason debut as Vancouver played host to Dallas.

And who was that calling the game? Only Panthers play-by-play guy Dave Strader and former franchise goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. Those in Canada may have gotten to hear former GM Mike Keenan's take on the postseason, although I wouldn't know because I couldn't get the TSN feed.

Keenan_2 Beezer


Yes, the Panthers were all over the place as the playoffs kicked off.

While Florida hasn't been to the postseason since 2000, a bunch of players who played with the organization recently are in the thick of the fight. A total of 11 players who have played with the Panthers in the past two seasons are on playoff teams this season.

Those players are: Bertuzzi (Detroit-trade), Niklas Hagman (Dallas-trade), Sean Hill (Islanders-bought out of contract), Kristian Huselius (Calgary-waived/trade), Ric Jackman (Anaheim-waived/trade), Joel Kwiatkowski (Pittsburgh-trade), Lukas Krajicek (Vancouver-trade), Luongo (Vancouver-trade), Jamie McLennan (Calgary-UFA), Roberts (Pittsburgh-trade) and Jon Sim (Atlanta-UFA).

-- PS: A few former Panthers are up for some league hardware, including Luongo (Hart/MVP and Vezina/top goalie) and Huselius (Lady Chandler Byng).Chandler

-- Great game in Nashville, no? Heck of a comeback by the Preds, heck of a win for the Sharks. I think it's going to be tough for Nash to come back from this one. SJ gave it away and then stole one on Music Row. Huge.

-- Again, great job all around by Versus. Very solid schedule for the first round of the playoffs, good announcing teams, great studio crew. Solid. I've been very critical of Versus and their spot on the dial (and in the conscience of sports fans in the good ol' U.S. of A.), but they do a great job in the postseason. Now, their game selection in the regular season leaves a lot to be desired, but their coverage in the second season stands up to anyone. So far, so good.



Start of Something New

With the Panthers season on ice and you're friendly, neighborhood hockey writer about to hit the road, thought it was time to change up On Frozen Pond for the summer months. Now, before all you folks up north start emailing me about all the snow, remember this: It's in the 80s down here.

So, since one of the most popular aspects of this blog is the goofy pictures I dig up and post, I figure let's keep it going. And I want you to help. Every day, I plan to post at least a picture; some days, if I have something to say, I''ll post extra. But the pics are a staple.

Those who would like to contribute, I've set up a special email account. Send your goofiest pics -- ones that have no rhyme, no reason -- to this extra special email address. Looking forward to what you all come up with. And, this should go without saying, let's keep it clean out there.

NEW ADDRESS: stupidpictures@gmail.com


And here's one to get you started. Compliments of CBC cartoonist Charlie Teljeur. Check his other work here: I LIKE CARTOONS