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25 posts from July 2007

July 30, 2007

Welcome Back

KotterBack from my roadtrip, back to reality and back to work.

Good to be home, although the trip was fantastic. Four star rating. But, after 10 days on the road, the beautiful city of Sunrise sounds good to me.

Anyway, missed quite a bit of excitement around Pantherland. There was a lot going on and I could have posted here but I really never got into the frame of mind to write.

So here's what I'm thinking now:

-- I don't think John Vanbiesbrouck meant to disparage Olli Jokinen with his radio comments last week. Sometimes Olli does seem to try too hard to be the leader of the Panthers, but he's still a relatively young player and needs to find his voice. I commend him for trying. Olli plays hard, plays hurt. He's becoming more and more of a leader in that room and will be fine. Beezer's comments about Olli being European may have raised some eyebrows because of previous comments he has made, but in this case, I think all he meant was sometimes Olli's words get twisted around because of the cultural differences. I understand Olli just fine, and think everyone else does too.

-- Speaking of leaders, going to miss Martin Gelinas. He was very respected in that room and a standup guy win or lose. Still don't know what happened here and I stand by my previous posts. He was close to coming back to Florida. I've heard the $1.25 mil offered by Nash was more than Florida was offering so there's that; and, Martin may feel more comfortable in the WC where he gets a few trips to western Canada to see the fam. Fort Lauderdale isn't the easiest of places to get flights to Calgary, trust me.

Newjerseys -- Like the new uniforms, you? I think the Panthers did a nice job tweaking a uniform style that, aside from the font of the names on back, have pretty much gone unchanged since Wayne kick-started the team in 1993. Gone are the original red road jerseys since Reebok can only handle two jerseys per team at this time and Florida digs the previously-alternate blues.

-- From all reports, Saturday's reunion game was a smash. The team originally hoped for 5,000 fans to show up, then predicted at least 8,000 a week before it happened. According to reports, almost 12,000 filed into CSA for the game between Panther alums and the '96 Eastern Conference champs. Good to see so many fans flocking to the rink in the middle of summer. I was in Georgia so I missed it.

July 22, 2007

On the Road Again

ChevyYep, haven't been posting lately because I've been out on the road and haven't been really keeping up with the news.

If you're wondering, I'm having a darned good time on this latest installment of summer vacation.

Will be back soon. In Philly right now, checking out the new Flyers and the Liberty Bell. Yes I'm going to get a cheesesteak. Baltimore tomorrow baby...watch out Charm City!

-- PS: The Flyers' slogan this season is "Back with a Vengance.'' Alrighty then.

July 18, 2007

A Sad Day

Dave Fay, a respected journalist who covered the Washington Capitals for The Washington Times, passed away this morning. Fay was 67 and had been battling cancer for the past 12 years.

Dave will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this coming November.

I only covered games with Dave the past two seasons, but I always enjoyed dealing with him. Good reporter, better guy. This is a loss for not only hockey fans in Washington, but all over. This comes from his wife Pat: "In true Fay style he battled till the end.  This time even that look could not stop this disease. He fought a good fight, but now he is at rest."

Here is the link to the story in the Washington Times DAVE FAY; Here is the link to the SI.com story on Dave MORE ON DAVE   

Just Some Stuff

Stuff_2 Yes, that is the Orlando Magic mascot boxing a Kangaroo. What of it?

I like Stuff, and if he/she can throw things out there, why not G?

And that's two straight questions to open this post. You like?

OK, so this is what I'm thinking about at this time: Great win for the Cleveland Indians tonight, coming back in the 9th to tie their game against the ChiSox before winning in the 11th. Former UMer Jason Michaels' leadoff double helps lead the Indians to the win. Ryan Garko is hero of the night, however, tying game with two-run shot in 9th, broken-bat knock driving in the winner two innings later.

-- It was cool meeting actress Cindy Morgan today at the office, but I have one regret. I checked out Ms. Morgan's filmography online (to see if she had played anything other than Lacey Underall in Caddyshack) and found out she was in like three episodes of CHiPs. CHiPs! She also was in an episode of Vega$. Wish I would have known that this afternoon.

With all the useless information rattling around my brain, how did I not know this? Sure, I threw out a couple of lines from the movie, but Lacey, err, Ms. Morgan, hears that all the time. If I would have known about the CHiPs thing, I bet I would have gotten the Bushwood cap that instead went to Jeff Shain.

-- The Carolina Hurricanes got better today by getting Matt Cullen back in a trade with the Rangers. Good player squeezed out by the free-spending Blueshirts. Cullen was a big part of the champion Canes and fills a lot of roles for them. Good move.

-- It doesn't look like Martin Gelinas is going to be offered a contract by either Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver. That means he's coming back to the Panthers for at least a third season. Gelinas signs with the Cats sooner than later.

-- There may be a better meal than the Pasta Caesar Salad w/ salmon or blackened tuna at Flanagan's, but I haven't found it. OK, the Char-cheeseburger at Char-Hut. But that's it.

-- I wish Larry King continued to do his little rants column in USA Today. I think Larry would agree with me on the previous comment. About the food, not about his column.

-- The new BBQ bacon chicken sandwich from BK looks really, really bad.

-- Caught the end of Vegas Vacation last night. It's gotten much better as time has gone on. Hated it when I saw it at the multiplex, find it OK on HBO. Same goes for Fletch Lives. Must be a Chevy Chase thing.


This comes from loyal reader Pete in Pennsylvania:

Hi George, Promotion idea for first home game. Give out plastic rats to fans in honor of the 95-96 team's 10 year anniversary. Have Mellanby on the bench as honorary captain & encourage fans to litter the ice with rats after the first Panther goal. Create some good mojo on opening night. Maybe it will be the start of something. Whatya think? Year of the Rat II? Is the Chinese Horoscope friendly to us this year?

I like it, although the league isn't going to go for the Panthers condoning fans tossing the rubber rodents onto the ice again. Unless, of course, they could tie it into a sponsorship with Disney's new movie about the rat who cooks gourmet French food.

July 17, 2007

More Staff Changes

CabinetThe Panthers have made more than a few staff changes this offseason, tweaking their coaching staff and reorganizing their front office and scouting staff.

Some others who have done plenty in the background the past few seasons won't be back. The Lightning announced on Tuesday that Rob Kennedy will be joining them as an assistant equipment manager. Kennedy has been with the Panthers' equipment staff the past two seasons. Good luck in Tampa, Bean.

Also, popular medical trainer and massage therapist Jim Pizzutelli has been let go. Don't know why other than someone in the Panthers told me the team is "going in a different direction.''  Pizza was very popular with players here and around the league, having spent 19 seasons with the Sabres before joining Florida prior to the lockout.

-- Want to attend the Panthers' first few games, save a few bucks and help a very worthy cause? Well chuckles, you're in luck.

The Panthers are partnering with the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Foundation; fans can purchase premium lower-bowl tickets through the foundation for the first three games of the regular season (yes, Opening Night is included) for $35 (regular price: $77). Seats in the upper deck are $25 (usual price: $35). The games are for Oct. 6/11 (New Jersey) and Oct. 13 (Tampa Bay).

A portion of the proceeds will help underwrite the cost of programs and services for children at the hospital where care is provided whether the families can pay or not.

To purchase the tix, call Wes England at 954-835-7243 or email him at englandw@sselive.com. You have to mention the hospital to get the discount. It wouldn't hurt to tell Wes that I sent you.

-- Mike Van Ryn will be signing autographs at the Fondue and Fashion for a Cure Friday at the Dillard's at the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale from 2-2:30 p.m. A percentage of the day's sales at Dillards will be donated to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis.

Tired of Dreary old Manhattan?

Caddyshack1 It's always nice to get a surprise. How about this:

The one day you come into the office to get mail, actress Cindy Morgan (AKA Lacey Underall from the all-time classic Caddyshack) is there visiting one of our news reporters. Good thing Bob had the mechanical gopher on his desk (it's next to mine) to draw the actress into the sports side of the building.

Ms. Morgan seemed to enjoy her visit to the Herald's Pines office, even leaving our golf writer Jeff with an official Bushwood cap and tie (would you like me to tie you up with one of your ties, Ty?) I got an autographed photo which was good enough for me. And yes, this tops the time Captain Kangeroo visited our old Fort Lauderdale office way back in the day.

-- From our good buddy Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News-Observer: "I remember her from Hobe Sound.  ...The last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.''

Nice job Luke.

Rough Market

Stock_2It sure isn't a good time to be an NHL goalie looking for a job.

There just isn't a lot of work out there to have.

James Mirtle did a little bit of research CHECK SITE HERE on his hockey blog. Truth is, guys like Alex Auld and Ed Belfour are going to have some trouble finding a job for the coming season. Why? There are only so many slots and many of them are filled. Check out what James found: Only two teams, the Calgary Keenans and Phoenix Straders, have room for a goalie. Hard to believe? Yes. Here's what Mirtle's research found:

Anaheim: Giguere, Bryzgalov, Hiller; Atlanta: Lehtonen, Hedberg; Boston: Fernandez, Thomas, Toivonen; Buffalo: Miller, Thibault; Calgary: Kiprusoff, ~vacant~; Carolina: Ward, Grahame; Chicago: Khabibulin, Lalime; Colorado: Budaj, Theodore; Columbus: Norrena, Leclaire; Dallas: Turco, Smith; Detroit: Hasek, Osgood; Edmonton: Roloson, Garon; Florida: Vokoun, Anderson; Los Angeles: LaBarbera, Cloutier; Minnesota: Backstrom, Harding; Montreal: Huet, Halak, Price; Nashville: Mason, Rinne; New Jersey: Brodeur, Weekes; N.Y. Islanders: DiPietro, Dubielewicz; N.Y. Rangers: Lundqvist, Valiquette, Montoya; Ottawa: Emery, Gerber; Philadelphia: Biron, Niittymaki; Phoenix: Tellqvist, ~vacant~; Pittsburgh: Fleury, Sabourin; San Jose: Nabokov, Greiss (likely); St. Louis: Legace, Schwarz/Bacashihua; Tampa Bay: Holmqvist, Denis; Toronto: Toskala, Raycroft, Clemmensen; Vancouver: Luongo, Sanford, Schneider; Washington: Kolzig, Johnson.

So where does that leave guys like Alex and Eddie? Well, there are always injuries and a guy like Ed Belfour will find work if he wants it. Having Hall of Fame credentials -- not to mention he's coming off a pretty good year -- surely helps (and don't call me Shirley). Alex may have a tougher road, one that may take him back to the AHL.

You hate to see quality guys like this out in limbo, but with the escalating salaries, they are victims of the NHL's new economics. Look at the Panthers; they're paying their No. 1 goalie a king's ransom. The backup? He's getting $500,000. That's the kind of money (and job description) Eddie and Alex wouldn't think of taking a month ago. Now, the lake is drying up.

July 16, 2007


PeteThe Panthers PR staff was unusually active for a July Monday, putting out four different releases before 1:30 p.m. EST.

Yeah, there's some news to report.

Aside from the team moving to 790-AM (see below) and Steve Goldstein officially being named the TV voice of the team (again, post below), Florida also announced the signing of three players for the coming season.

Two of the players (Rob Globke and Kamil Kreps) signed two-way deals so they will be in camp competing for a spot on the roster. If they don't make it, they will be sent to Rochester and wait for a callup later in the season. Michal Repik, Florida's second-round pick from the recent draft, also agreed to a deal.

Here are the stats: Kreps, 22,  made his NHL debut against Vancouver last year and played in 14 games with the Panthers scoring a goal (Ap. 6 @ TB) with an assist. The 24-year-old Globke played in 19 games this past season, assisting on a goal. He scored seven goals with 11 assists in 48 games at Rochester. Repik, 18, had 24 goals with 31 assists for the Memorial Cup champion Vancouver Giants this past season. He turns 19 on New Year's Eve. 

Moving up the Dial

DanoJoe Rose may be leaving 790 The Ticket, but Goldie and the Florida Panthers are on their way to do their part to fill the void.

As expected, the Panthers signed on to join Dan Le Batard and 790 for the next three seasons. Florida games had been broadcast on 560 WQAM since the team's inception in 1993.

Unlike 560, don't expect Florida games to bounce all over the dial. 560 had deals with UM and the Marlins, so whenever there was a conflict, the Panthers lost. So did the fans who couldn't watch a game on TV. Panthers games were put on whatever pirate radio station had airtime for sale.

The team, QAM and Randy Moller tried their best to find the better stations with decent signal, but sometimes they went where they could regardless of the fuzzy outcome. This deal should be better for the Panthers, although they may have to work a lot harder to make it work financially.

790 -- which it should be noted has a partnership with Ma Herald but not with me -- will also have additional hockey-related programing including a 30-minute pregame show before all weekday games as well as a 15 minute postgame show.

The new radio voice hasn't been announced, but Barry Jackson wrote Friday that color man Randy Moller might be switching to play by play. If that is the case, look for a former player to take over the color role. Who, pray tell? Just throwing some names out there, but how about John Vanbiesbrouck, Paul Laus, Scott Mellanby or Joe Nieuwendyk?

Personally, I think the Panthers need to hire a professional broadcaster to do PBP and let Randy continue giving his colorful brand of analysis. Randy does a good job on color but I understand why he -- and the Panthers -- would like him to try PBP. Randy would get to enhance his resume and become a better broadcaster. The Panthers, meanwhile, get to save a spot for Goldie to come back to radio if FSN isn't happy with his TV work. I think Goldie will be great on TV and no one should be worried but having a safety net in place is never bad.

-- Also, congrats to Goldie for officially being named the television voice of the Panthers on Monday. It's a well-deserved promotion and I'm sure he'll be a great voice for the fan.

July 15, 2007

A Good Dude

VokounI wanted to try and get to know new Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun a little bit, wanted to get away from Vokoun the hockey player. I tried talking to him about his charity work in Nashville, his work with the young cancer patients that was so important.

He didn't want to talk about it. Said he did it for the kids, not for the publicity. That's admirable, but not OK by me. Ed Belfour did a lot of good work in his time with the Panthers, only no one got to read about it because Eddie wouldn't talk to any of us about it.

I spoke with a Make-A-Wish director last week who admitted that was a shame; Not because we couldn't praise Eddie (that's not the point), but because people didn't get to read about someone doing good. Sometimes, those stories spur others on.

Plus it was nice to write a story about a good guy, and South Florida can use all the good people it can get.

Anyway, here's my feature on Tomas from today's Miami Herald:  CLICK HERE WILL YA?

Here's my story on Tomas the hockey guy (with some tidbits about his time in Nashville playing hockey): CHECK THIS OUT TOO, YEAH?

And here's some of the bonus stuff.

This email is from Mike Smith, whose son Ryan became friends with Tomas Vokoun through the children's hospital at Vanderbilt University:

It's hard to believe two years ago, I was afraid I would lose my boy to cancer. In Feb. 2006, Ryan had endured seven months of chemotherapy and managed to have blood counts high enough to attend a Predator's hockey game against the Black Hawks. Because of the generosity of Tomas Vokoun, Ryan sat in a suite, visited the locker room, and was given souvenirs from the game, including an autographed game puck from Tomas. Tomas also gave Ryan a 6-0 shutout!

When Ryan went into the arena that night, he was a battered, worn-out child. When he emerged after the game, a change had taken place. His spirit was so elevated, and it has never returned to the level it was before that night. It has never even been a concern to me since that night. I have told Tomas more than once that he'll never know how much he did for Ryan. I can't even type these words today without tears welling in my eyes. Tomas gave Ryan so much that night, and for the next 16 months with his gift of season's tickets for our family, and meeting with him on several occasions throughout the season.

Ryan was visiting a friend of his on 6th floor when I heard the news about Tomas being traded to Florida. It was as if a best friend had died. There was total silence, then the accusation that I was lying about the trade! I would guess that when Florida visits the Preds in the fall, Ryan will be hoping for a "W" for Tomas.

(*) This email comes to me from Nina Bickford, whose son Austin is friends with Tomas:

My son was diagnosed December 2005 with stage 4 Neuroblastoma.

After his first inpatient stay for chemo, he was given tickets to the Nashville Predators game. He was able to sit in Tomas Vokoun's suite. This was his first hockey game and he, as well as our entire family, have been hooked ever since. Austin received four tickets. He took his cousin, his dad, and his dad's boss (the police chief in Dover, TN).

Tomas was so amazing with the kids. He gave Austin a couple of pucks, and his stick that he played with in the game. To this day Austin has them displayed on his wall. This was a memory that we will never forget.

In Dec.2006 we found out that Austin had relapsed. His odds of survival were much less than the low 25 percent odds we were given at original diagnoses. Once again, we were given tickets to the hockey game, compliments of Tomas. This time we were given six tickets. Austin chose to take his three favorite doctors as well as me and his little sister. This was by far even better than the first game we attended because Tomas sit with us in the suite the entire time, due to a hurt hand.

Words could never be able to explain to anyone how much of an impact this had on my family. Tomas was the most polite, soft hearted, caring individual I have ever met. Our family is saddened of the news that he will be leaving the Preds but wish him the very best.

(*) Out of the mouth of Austin:

Tomas is the best hockey player ever. He always saves the pucks. I loved sitting with him in his suite. I am sad he is leaving the Predators. He was my favorite. I guess I will just have to go to Florida to watch him. I love Tomas. Austin

(*) Here is some leftover stuff from Tomas on various subjects.

On coming to Florida:

It's going to be a lot of work moving and all of that and it's a big change. This is an organization that has a great future if you look at the players here and how young they are. They're building this team right. They didn't just sign five free agents for a year and that's it. They're in it for a while. It's very similar to what happened in Nashville before the changes in ownership and the market and all that. We're similar teams. We got to the point where we were one of the top teams in the league. It hasn't happened here yet, but I feel with the signings they've made, this team is improved a lot. I want to be part of changing things here.

On Nashville's playoff history and they'll unfulfilled goals:

It's definetly tough because the first year we made the playoffs no one thought we should have been there. We were eighth, played the President trophy winner Detroit. We weren't supposed to win. The next time, we were better, but still a lot of the experts thought San Jose was the favorite. This past year, I thought we had the team to win the Stanley cup. But you don't play the games on paper. We had the names, we just didn't get it done. We didn't play good as a team and weren't disciplined. San Jose just outplayed us. It's simple; they were better. Maybe not individually, but they had the better team and deserved to win. It wasn't a fluke. They were better than us.

On  expectations in Florida:

As a No. 1 goalie, you have to be a difference maker. The margin for error is so small. There are 20 teams out there right now who feel they are better than they were last year. We're one of those teams. There are a lot of people excited. But if all you do is talk about hat you're going to do, we're going to be sitting here at this time next year talking about the disappointment. This franchise is headed in the right direction., that's obvious, but we have to go out there and win. We just need to get into the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you're the first seed or the eighth. Every team gets a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Getting there is very important. Anyone can win it if you make the playoffs. You don't have to be the best team on paper to win. There have been plenty of teams that have been written off that ended up winning it all or at least making the Finals. If you would have asked me last year that Ottawa would have a better year than the one before, I wouldn't have believed it. In sports, hockey especially, you can't buy a championship. The team has to go out there and win it themselves. It's not about payroll, not one or two players. It's the ultimate team sport and it's more important to have the best team together on the ice.

On his illness in 2006:


It was very scary. I'm young, but I have a family and I was very scared. It gives you a much different perspective on your life. Hockey is a very serious sport, and it's the most important thing. But if you don't have your health, you don't have anything. You could have all the money in the world, but it doesn't help you if you don't have your health.


July 14, 2007

Accidental Tourist

PoohTaking some time off this weekend to visit with friends up in Orlando, so figured I would take in some of the parks.

It's fun to act like a tourist every now and again. Last night, for instance, I drove up and down I-4 with my left blinker flashing while going no faster than 45 MPH. And for those good folks from Alabama who almost ran me over at the Turnpike rest stop, sorry about all the kind words I spat in your direction. And watch where you're going next time, clowns. If not, I'm going to sic Joe 'Capt. Birmingham' Goodman on you. Joeygood

So, you're wondering, 'what is the point to all this nonsense Mr. Richards? We don't care about your trips and travels to central Florida. You should be spending your hard-earned money in South Florida anyway. Couldn't you have visited Flamingo Gardens instead? MetroZoo? You know, the International Chess Museum can be quite delightful and a great way to spend a day or a lifetime.'

While all that is true, the reason I bring this up is that I, Senior Blogger, will still be working this weekend. I have some nice stuff in store for you all come Sunday morning. Nothing earth shattering, just extra stuff that will go with our Tomas Vokoun feature that runs in your Sunday Herald. Going to have pics, some neat stuff acquired from Tomas' travails in Nashville.

So come back and see us, ya hear!

And turn off your blinker. It's driving the people behind you crazy. Unless of course, the people behind you are driving a minivan with Bama plates. Then do what you have to do.

July 11, 2007

Uniform Decision

MorganjerseyThe Florida Panthers are set to unveil their new jerseys, and On Frozen Pond is giving you a sneak peek thanks to pictures found on the internet.

Don't know who on the team wears No. 55 and don't know who 'Morgan' is, but I'll put my reputation as a professional journalist on the line that these are the new jerseys!

PS: Why is it that Carolina teams like to lift names from South Florida teams? Seriously, Panthers and Hurricanes were already taken. Here's to South Florida getting an Arena Football team and naming them the Florida Tar Heels.

UPDATE 7/16: Loyal and astute reader Mike Davis sends in this little gem --  I was thinking about what you said about Carolina stealing South Florida names, and thought that instead of the Tar Heels we should steal the Bobcats instead.  Then it dawned on me, the Florida Bobcats were an Arena Football team in South Florida until 2001.  Since the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team did not begin until 2004, it appears they did it again.  I guess they aren't that original up there.

Good looking out Mike. Keep 'em coming.

-- Actually, I really do have some news on the new jerseys. According to Michael Yormark, the new jerseys will be unveiled during the 1996 reunion game in Sunrise on July 28.

The jerseys won't be available for purchase until September (sorry, Reebok is trying their darndest I'm sure) but season ticket holders will be able to make advance orders during the game.

-- Yormark says the Panthers are on pace to sell as many as 3,000 new season tickets for next season.

Morgan -- The Panthers also announced they signed free agent linebacker Dan Morgan to a two-year deal. Morgan, a Taravella High and University of Miami grad, has spent his entire pro career with the Carolina Marlins.

Mark Your Calendar

KittycalThe NHL released the schedule for the 2007-08 season today, and while there is plenty of interesting things to talk about, lets just worry about the Florida Panthers for now.

As we all know, Florida opens on the road in New York on Oct. 4 then plays host to New Jersey on Oct. 6. I hope all the Jersey fans in SoFla are in town that week, because Florida's second home game is also against the Devils on Oct. 11. Those who know math know that will fulfill the Devils' two trips to South Florida. Quick, I know.

Anywho, here are some of the juicy games we've all been waiting for:

-- Roberto Luongo and the Fighting Luongos visit Sunrise on Feb. 1; Mike Keenan's Calgary Flames visit on Dec. 11. The Panthers visit Nashville -- Tomas Vokoun's return to Music City -- on Oct. 27.

-- Florida's first trip to Canada is an early one; Florida goes for three games (Mon, Tor, Ott) from Oct. 16-20.

-- Eight of Florida's first 11 games come against teams that made the playoffs last year.

-- The Cats are home for the holidays. Florida plays at Columbus on the day before Thanksgiving, but plays host to the Rangers on the following Friday. Florida also plays host to Carolina on Dec. 22, then doesn't play again until going to Atlanta on Dec. 27. The Cats will likely ring in the New Year at home before flying out New Year's Day. The Panthers make their first visit to New Jersey's new rink in lovely downtown Newark on Jan. 2.

-- The Panthers have a number of long homestands. The longest is seven games in March (6-20). The teams coming to town: Pitt, Atl, NYI, NYR, Atl, Car, TB. Florida also has a five-game homestand Nov. 29-Dec. 11 (Bos, Wash, Ott, NYI, Calg).

-- Longest roadtrip is five games from Feb. 2-10 (TB, Tor, Ott, Bos, Buf); Florida also has a four-game trip from Dec. 13-18 (STL, Det, Chi, Mon).

-- March should be good to the Panthers. Florida plays 12 games in March and nine of them are at home. The Panthers do end the season on a three-game roadie (Atl, Car, Wash).

-- Starting on March 8, Florida has 12 games remaining. Ten of those games are against Southeast Division rivals.

-- Three home games will be matinees, with 5 p.m. start times. Those games: Philly (Dec. 30), Colorado (Jan. 13) and Atlanta (March 16).

-- Here's the month-by-month break down: October (6 home, 6 road); November (6/8); December (8/5); January (6/7); February (6/9); March (9/3); April (0/3).

-- The Panthers will start weekday home games at 7:30, weekends (betcha it's sponsored by a certain bank) at 7.

-- Florida plays a rare leap-year game, playing host to Minnesota on Feb. 29. Florida has played in two such games, both ending in a 2-2 tie. The opponents were Washington (1996) and Chicago (2004).

-- Florida doesn't go west of the Central Time Zone, and only goes as far west as the
Mississippi River. Florida will visit the Central Division this season, with trips to
Columbus, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville and Chicago. The Northwest Division (Minnesota,
Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado) visits Sunrise.

-- The Panthers only have one home game competing with a Dolphins home game (Dec. 30) and one home game going against a University of Miami home game (Oct. 13).

July 10, 2007

New TV Voice


Here's what I've heard of late: Steve Goldstein has all but accepted the team/FSN's offer for the television gig. He just needs to agree to the contractual terms. It's expected he's going to do so.

As far as radio goes, Craig Minervini is expected to get a close look, as is WQAM hockey/baseball pre-post game host Jesse Agler. Jesse has called a few baseball games this year. Sounds pretty good, but so did Craig when he filled in for Goldie last year.

If the Panthers -- who are making this call -- don't stay in the market, expect them to look to a young voice who is currently calling games in the AHL.

Also, a wild-card in this is Brian Goldman, the Panthers' coordinator of communications. Goldman, a University of Pittsburgh grad, is an aspiring broadcaster who called Pitt football and basketball and is doing a lot of television work on floridapanthers.com.

-- Here's the preseason schedule:
Sept. 16: At Calgary; Sept. 17: At Edmonton; Sept. 18: Vs. Calgary (Saskatoon); Sept. 20: At Chicago; Sept. 25: CHICAGO (noon); Sept. 26: ATLANTA; Sept. 28: At Atlanta.

-- Jacques said he hopes Janis Sprukts returns to the Panthers next season, but said Sprukts could play in Europe next season. The Panthers aren't offering Sprukts anything more than a two-way deal, but word is Sprukts (who scored 18 goals in 58 games for Rochester last year and had a goal in 13 games with the Panthers) wants a garuntee he's got a spot on the roster or he's going Europa.


"I don't know at this time,'' Martin said when asked if he thought Sprukts would return. "We offered him a qualifying offer of sorts to protect our rights. We're in discussions with him. I hope he’ll be back, but a player always has [Europe] that option. We’d like him to stay here. If he doesn’t, it could open up a position for someone else.''

Martin says the Panthers will supply Rochester with 12 players and if Sprukts doesn't return, Florida could sign a veteran AHL player to help the Americans with their depth. That player would be a member of the Panthers and eligible for a callup if needed. Martin said all but one of Rochester's players last year was either a member of the Florida or Buffalo organization.

What Time is It?

FlavaIt's Pizza Time, of course. More on that later.

A few things going on in PantherLand what with the cookout on Monday and the schedule being announced tomorrow.

As promised, here are some of the excerpts from the Brett McLean interview. The guy felt like he was being squeezed out in Colorado, so he was quite happy to be welcomed to Florida with open arms.


“It’s been great. I’ve been down here a couple of days, my family and I, and today was good. I got to come in and meet Jacques and all the personnel. It’s a beautiful facility. It was nice to meet Tomas. It’s an exciting time.’’


“I spoke with Mike Van Ryn on the phone. We played together on the Team Canada under-20 team. I’ve talked to a few players who used to play here. I’m excited about meeting everyone.’’


“It was a building process and kind of the same thing happened the year before. I had to start from scratch and it was one of those things that I stuck with. I hoped to get to the point where I got to play some critical minutes, and I did so over the last 20 games or so. Things went well for my line, really went well for my team, so that was good.’’


“I didn’t play much on the power play, but I did quite a bit of penalty killing down the stretch. It’s something I hope to do here; it’s something I take pride in. I’ve been on the penalty kill everywhere I’ve been. When I got to Colorado I didn’t do it for about a year-and-a-half, but I got to do it in the second half of the season. I like to do it.’’


“I knew that the option was there, but knowing the personnel there and what they wanted to do, I didn’t know if they had room. They talked about getting Ryan Smyth; his spot was where I was playing. They also had a lot of young players under contract, a lot of older players under long-term contracts. And they wanted Ryan Smyth, so it was pretty obvious there wasn’t room much less ice time for me even if I would have gone back. I might have made it back onto the top six, but it definitely wouldn’t have been as good a fit as this is.’’


That’s the best feeling for me. They wanted me on July 1 and made it very clear I was a player at the top of their list. That’s a great feeling. In Colorado, I was liked, but I don’t think they ever saw me as a critical player. They looked to upgrade on me; here, it’s a little bit of an opposite. I’ve never had that before. It’s a new experience for me, so right there, [the Panthers] are going to get my loyalty and my respect. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they’re decision pays off for them.’’

-- The schedule comes out tomorrow. This much we do know: FLA at NYR on Oct. 4; NJ at FLA on Oct. 6

-- Had lunch today at the new Pizza Time in Sunrise. You may remember hearing about this place; it's owned by Bobby, father-in-law to some guy named Roberto Luongo. Anyway, the old Pizza Time (since sold) was a popular hangout for Florida players since a) it was located about a mile away from Incredible Ice and b) the food was incredible.

The new location is about 10 minutes from the Sunrise arena on the corner of Sunrise Blvd. and Nob Hill. But don't expect it to become a new hangout for players. Most of them live in Parkland and still frequent the old Pizza Time. And why not? I've been to the old Pizza Time since it's been under new management and the food remains very good.

-- Since it's slow and I have nothing else to write about, might as well give my opinion on this little nugget: After going to Pizza Time, I walked down to Walgreens. They gave me a coupon for a free Vanilla Coke Zero. Tried it. After the first sip, it was pretty darned good. Don't know how good a summer drink it is, but it had a pretty good flavor if you like diet drinks. Doesn't top Diet Dr. Pepper, but it's still pretty good.

-- Looking forward to the All-Star Game tonight. Missed the home run derby (happy birthday Laura!) but I'm sure I didn't miss much. Always love the Midsummer Classic, have since I was a kid.

July 09, 2007

Florida Cookout

TailgateThe Panthers had another one of their cookouts at the CSA on Monday night, with newbies Tomas Vokoun and Brett McLean serving as the honorees.

Talked to both guys, feature tomorrow rides mostly on Vokoun. Will go through the tape tomorrow and feature some of McLean's comments. Both seem to be very cool guys, both seem very thoughtful and happy to be here in South Florida.

Here are some excerpts from Vokoun:

“Nashville, for me, is closed down. That’s a chapter in the book and I’m trying to get things organized here as fast as I can.
Expectations are high, and it’s hard to be successful if you’re not prepared. It has nothing to do with luck. Successful people are prepared people. The most important thing for me is to be settled and be ready for the season physically and mentally.’’

“I never saw it coming. It was a shock,’’ Vokoun said of the draft-day trade in which Florida sent three draft picks to Nashville. “The franchise is in limbo, the owner wants to sell so they’re cutting the payroll. This is a business.’’

“I’m excited to have gone where I did. If had a choice – which I didn’t – this is a team I would have picked. We have great potential and it’s a great area. I hope it’s a great community, but I hear its one of the nicest places to live on this earth. I’m excited to live in Florida. I wish the best to the people in Nashville. If the team leaves, I’m going to be sad. I think hockey belongs there.’’

Something from JM: “To be able to get a goaltender like Tomas really stabilizes our position,’’ Martin said. “He’s a proven goaltender who was in an organization that had success. He’s happy to be here, he’s in the prime of his career and knowing that he’s under contract for four years really fits what we’re trying to do around here.’’

-- Martin said he'll start work on hiring a new assistant coach sometime this week.

-- Martin adds he's not worried about signing Stephen Weiss longterm, adds that the death of Stephen's grandfather last week (my condolences, Stephen) have slowed things a bit. Martin also says he doesn't think Edmonton is coming after Weiss in trying to sign him to an offer sheet.

-- There has been no work done on signing Jay Bouwmeester to a long-term deal as of yet. JM says he wants to get Stephen's deal done first.

July 06, 2007

Fun with Hockey News

Thnkeenan The latest edition of The Hockey News is out on your local newsstands today with the ever-serious Mike Keenan staring back from the cover.

Much has been made about Iron Mike's comments about his tenure in Florida, only I didn't notice much being made about the Roberto Luongo trade. So, perhaps the one thing Keenan will be remembered most for as a GM (the Luongo trade trumps the Pronger deal fivefold) isn't mentioned. Not a word, not even in passing. Fine.

Perhaps it's as simple as the basis of the story being about Keenan the Coach, not Keenan the GM. There also could have been a deal made between Keenan and THN. You get the story if you don't mention Luongo. It's possible. Word is Mike is still pretty defensive about the subject. The article also mentions that Keenan resigned before the start of last season, although that's not the case as most know.

Whatever.We'll get to the Keenan article in depth later, but what I found the most scathing was Mike Brophy's column on the back page. Headlined 'Cats Climbing? Don't Bet on it,' Brophy goes on to say he doesn't think the Panthers are a Stanley Cup team. Really, you don't?  I don't know too many people who do (except for the dolt who wrote the real estate commercial 'when you think Panthers, think the Cup...').

This is not a championship team, not now, perhaps not ever. They are, however, a pretty good team one that should challenge for a playoff berth. Then, who knows? Did anyone see the Hurricanes coming before 2005? The Lightning in 2003? Championship teams come together if they have the right mix of talent, chemistry, guts. Brophy questions Florida's guts saying he doesn't see anyone but Gregory Campbell laying it on the line and sacrificing his body. Oh no? How about Mike Van Ryn, Ruslan Salei, Bryan Allen? Olli Jokinen played through some pretty serious pain this past season when he could have shut things down early.

I do admit I agree with some of the things Brophy writes. I watched almost every game of this past postseason and I think I felt worse about the Panthers' postseason chances for success after watching the first round than I did just a few weeks before when the season ended.

Did the Panthers play some good hockey last year? Sure. Did they ever show me that they could sustain the kind of play that's needed throughout the postseason? Nope. If the Panthers made the playoffs this year, I think they would have lasted as long as the Thrashers did. Yes, the mentality inside that room needs to change. The guys talk about not making excuses but it kind of sounds the same. This Florida team needs to jump out quick, no lapses in November, no talk about not gelling until after the New Year.

Love Brophy's ending line though: For a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since Pavel Bure was its top scorer (retired for four years), it seems to me fans in South Florida have a better chance of seeing David Caruso win a best acting Emmy before they see the Panthers hoist the Cup.

Agreed Broph: Caruso's acting is pretty crappy. And most of that show is filmed in California anyway.

-- Back to Keenan: The cover story is basically more of the same. The writer rips Keenan's recent past and Mike responds to why he failed. Every time, it seems, it ain't Mike's fault.

Prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, Keenan told me that he really regretted leaving New York the way he did, and while he shared some of the blame for that mess, I do believe he regrets the way that worked out. Who knows what would have happened had he stayed with the Rangers another year. Would they have won the Cup again? Would he have alienated so many people he would have been fired anyways? Who knows. I do think he would have loved to have had the chance to repeat and I know that one year in New York is one of his favorites of all time. Mike's a hero in New York, and he should be.

That said, he's burned some bridges in Vancouver, St. Louis and of course here in rainy South Florida. As far as his stay in Florida goes, Keenan's era as GM isn't brought up in the article. As far as his coaching stint goes, he says the team "isn't good enough.'' He also says he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time'' and the "belief of ownership is skewed. They think the team is going to be in the final and they can't even make the playoffs.''

And that, apparently, isn't Mike Keenan's fault either.

-- Speaking of Keenan, Sean Hill is going home. The former Florida defenseman (signed by Keenan prior to the 2005-06 season, bought out prior tot he 2006-07 season) is returning to his native Minnesota after signing a one-year deal with the Wild.

Hill, 37, will miss the first 19 games of this coming season because he is still serving out his suspension from the playoffs. Prior to Game 5 of the Islanders' opening round series against Buffalo, the league suspended Hill for 20 games because he violated the league's drug policy.

''For the Wild to come out and tell me they wanted me, I can't tell you the feelings I had,'' Hill told the AP in a telephone interview Friday. ''I've played a lot of years in this league, and that wasn't the way I wanted to go out.''

-- Alexander Karpotsev is, however, still available for the right price.

-- Ottawa just promoted assistant coach John Paddock to replace Bryan Murray as head coach. Rochester Americans coach Randy Cunneyworth had been considered a finalist for the job. Rumors are Jacques is a fan of the job Cunneyworth has done down on the farm and there have been rumblings Cunneyworth is a candidate for the vacant assistant coaching job. Would he take the job if offered? Will he be allowed to leave as he is an employee of the Sabres? Again, we'll have to wait and see. I still think former Panther assistant and recently fired Tampa Bay assistant Craig Ramsay gets the gig. Both he and Cunneyworth are old friends of JM,so there's that to ponder.

-- The 2007-08 NHL schedule comes out Wednesday, the day after the Major League All-Star Game. Panthers open the preseason Sept. 16 against Keenan and the host Calgary Flames. Florida will also play preseason games against the Oilers, Flames (in Saskatoon) and Blackhawks before coming home. I think Detroit is coming here. Florida is said to open the season Oct. 4 at New York, home opened Oct. 6 against the homeless-for-a-bit Devils on Oct. 6. The Northwest Division (home to Keenan and Luongo) comes to Sunrise this season; Florida travels to the Central and doesn't play the Pacific.

July 05, 2007

Rumor Mill

QuakermillThe Panthers appear to be content with the roster they've built, happy to sit back and get ready for the upcoming season.

Oh, but there's a rumbling that a big name could be available. A big name Florida fans and management are familiar with.

Ed 'Jovo Cop' Jovanovski could be on the block.

According to a report by New York's Newsday, the desperate Islanders are trying to convince the equally desperate Coyotes to deal off Jovanovski. If there is any truth to this report, one might surmise that perhaps the Coyotes are shipping their top player and if so, you have to think Florida will at least be called about Jovo's availability.

Jovo Not only did Jovanovski start his career with the Panthers, but his wife is from Boca and it appears the Panthers would be a good fit for the All-Star defenseman. Problem is, Jovo isn't going to be cheap -- not on the ledger nor the price to get him. Phoenix is looking to rebuild from the bottom up and has plenty of needs. A couple of players and a few draft picks is likely the asking price.

Financially, Florida would have to ship at least one of its better players west just to make the money right. Jovo has four years left on his contract at a salary cap hit of $6.5 million per year.

The thought from here: This deal isn't going to happen. Florida likes what it has, and to make a deal like this would shake up the roster way too much for a very patient Jacques Martin's liking.

That said, a player like Ed Jovanovski doesn't come along every day. Florida tried to sign him last year and underbid for his services. They felt Phoenix overpaid and walked away (actually, the money talked and the Panthers walked). Do they think the remainder of his contract is now a bargain? We'll see.

If Phoenix does deal him, however, they will need quite a bit in return. The Coyotes are in a bad way and Jovanovski might be worth more on the trade block for them than on the ice.

Don't you love the summer doldrums? We get to talk about stuff like this when there's a 97 percent chance it will never happen. But it is fun, no?

-- Update: Eklund on hockeybuzz.com says he is hearing Jovanovski could be headed to the Panthers or Rangers. Take what you want out of that.

-- Bad news for the Panthers: Atlanta resigned winger Slava Kozlov to a three-year deal. Kozlov has had success over the years against Florida. In 42 career games against the Panthers, Kozlov has 12 goals and 21 assists. Five goals and 16 assists came in 16 games against Florida in the past two seasons. That ain't shabby.

-- A lot of recent former Panthers are still on the market. Of all the members of the 2005-07 Panthers who hit the free agent market on July 1, only Todd Bertuzzi and Jon Sim (Islanders) has signed on with another team. The list of available, recent former Panthers still available include: Juraj Kolnik, Ric Jackman, Alex Auld, Ed Belfour, Alexei Semenov, Sean Hill, Jamie McLennan, Martin Gelinas, etc.

-- One of hockey's best characters announced his retirement yesterday. Jeremy Roenick announced his retirement by text-messaging old buddy Tim Panaccio of the Philly Inquirer. "Is this still news,'' Roenick joked. While opponents -- and fans of teams that opposed him -- hated him, Roenick was good for the game. Good for a quote. Just fun to be around, well, for the most part. Read Panach's story on Roenick RIGHT HERE

-- Newark Star-Ledger says Devils close to deal with hard-shooting D Sheldon Souray. Nice pickup for the Devils if true. And, they're going to pay for it. Speaking of the Devils, the New York Post says John MacLean is finally going to get his chance to coach the Devils. MacLean has been an assistant for the Devils since 2002 but has been passed over the top job the past two times it has been open. Former Devils coach Larry Robinson is going to MacLean's assistant.

-- FYI: Steve Montador has filed for salary arbitration. Betting 50 bucks the two sides settle before then.

July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

4thWould like to be the first to wish everyone out there a happy Fourth of July, a celebration of this country's independence marked by the day we all seceded from Norway back in 1924.

Ha! I know better than that. Plus, I've walked around Philadelphia a few times and it wasn't just for cheesesteaks.

Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. Don't know if it's because of the fireworks (I'm a bit of a pyro), the summertime vibe or the cookouts. Probably a combination of them all. I just know I always have a great time on July 4.

Hope to have another memorable Fourth this year. Just going to hang around and be lazy so nothing special about that. But my boy Chicago Robb is having a fireworks show at his pub in Pompano. Word is he bought me some of those sulfur driveway snakes and a couple boxes of smoke bombs. Once I get me a lighter, I'm good as gold.

Have a good holiday folks.

July 03, 2007

Back in Rat

Radek3Radek Dvorak spoke live to the South Florida 3 from a hotel room in Spain. Drafted by the Panthers with the tenth overall pick of the 1995 draft, Dvorak played parts of five seasons with the Cats and was an integral part of Florida's run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

Dvorak says he will not be able to attend the 1996 reunion later this month, but since he signed a two-year deal with the Panthers he'll have plenty of time to reminisce.

Here's a transcript of Dvorak's conversation with the South Florida media:


Of course. It’s great to be back. I know the place, they have a great team. It’s great to be back and to be playing. I’m really excited about next year.

The team in Florida now is a good team, they have a very good chance to go far I think. It was a good feeling to go to the Finals, I think we have a chance to do that. Coming back to Florida, hopefully we can do the same thing we did in ’95-96. We have good goalies, good forwards. Put everything together, we can do a lot of good things next year.


Last year, we were the last place team in the league until December. It took us a while to start playing good hockey. I played with Keith Tkachuk all season, we played good hockey. The year before I was injured for almost a month, then I played all 82 games. For me it was a good comeback. I started slow, but after that and playing with Tkachuk it was good.


Last two or three years it’s been tough for me and my scoring. I don’t know if anything is holding me back, but I have had chances. This year will be different. I know I can score. I’ve scored 30 goals, 20 goals a few times. It’s about confidence. I just need to score some goals at the beginning and everything will be OK. I just need to play good hockey and help Florida and help our team be better. We’ll go from there. Teams dictate play. Individuals come second. I just want to play good hockey and help the guys get to the playoffs.

I spent five great years in Florida. Had a great time, great guys, great team. It was always a pleasure to play for the Florida Panthers.


No one can forget that. It was really special. I remember when Scott Mellanby hit the rat. It was me and a few others in the locker room that saw that. It was great time. It as my first year in the league, we were all friends. The Year of the Rat was something special. We almost went all the way. It was a one of those things you never forget. I’m just glad I’m back.

I still talk to those guys.


Played in world championships with him, played with him when we were younger. It’s great he’s there. Anytime you have a goalie like Tomas, you have a chance to win. With him, he’s one of the best goalies in the league. He’s a hard worker. We have a great chance. I’m really excited to be on a team with him. You all will see what a down to earth, regular guy he is. He talks to everyone. He’s there for us, for you, everyone. He’s great in the community, very friendly. He’s also a great goalie. That’s a good combination.

Olesz, played together a few times. I know him too. He has a great future.