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31 posts from September 2007

September 16, 2007

Game On (Updates)

Calgary1CALGARY, Alberta -- The folks here in Calgary are so friendly, so inviting. And no, I'm not being a smart guy. The trip to Calgary has been great as usual, the weather perfect, lunch good and the Browns victorious!

As far as hockey goes, the Panthers take on the homestanding Flames tonight from the Saddledome. Good times are sure to come.

Haven't run into Mr. Keenan yet, but I'm sure I will sometime this week.

Here are some of the updates I promised. Notables in the lineup for Florida include Tomas Vokoun, Olli, Mezei, Stumpel, Peltonen, Dvorak, Zednik, Murphy, Salei, Van Ryn and Olesz. Youngsters like Michael Repik, David Brine, Stefan Meyer and Mike Duco getting a look. Duco apparently had an impressive rookie camp and was invited to training camp. Sure he's digging it.

For Calgary: Dion Phaneuf, Stephane Yelle, Owen Nolan, Wayne Primeau, Robyn Regehr, Adrian Aucoin, Alex Tanguay. Brett Sutter also in the lineup for the Flames.

Also for Florida: Calgary's own Keaton Ellerby getting a shot to play in his hometown. Ellerby had a huge rooting section at practice this morning with over a dozen family members and friends taking in the workout.

Keep checking back throughout the night. Will be updating as we go. It's 7:35 Miami time right now, 5:35 here in the WAC (or Mountain West, whatever....)


-- Midway through the 2nd: FLA 1-0; Missing one heck of a time here in Calgary! Craig Anderson the new goalie for the Panthers. Vokoun makes 10 saves, a couple of which were pretty sweet.

-- Calgary's new jerseys sport the Canadian national flag on one shoulder, the flag of Alberta on the other. Nice touch.

-- End of 1: FLA 1, CAL 0. Shots: FLA 14-5. Florida goes into the second killing off Mezei's hooking penalty taken at 19:22. CAL gets off two shots during abbreviated PP...

-- Olli scores @ 11:45. Florida got three shots off during power play.

-- Scoreless at 11:03; Shots: FLA 8-3. Van Ryn would have two power play shots, but they went right into two CAL defenders. Florida has been on the power play twice, no shots. Florida on third PP of night. And first shot w/ advantage by Murph the Surf.

-- Game is underway, and it's scoreless early on (ha!)

Tomas Vokoun in net for the Cats sporting their new white road unis; Matt Keetley in net for the Flames wearing their red togs.

-- Jacques Martin is indeed behind the Florida bench tonight. First line: Zednik/Olli/Meyer.

-- And yes, I do like what the Panthers did to their uniforms. They look crisp and clean.


-- Hard to get homesick on this roadtrip when there are so many hints of home. For instance, when the Panthers were in Colorado, so too were FSU's Seminoles and Miami's Marlins. Had dinner last night with Brian X in downtown Denver; on one television, the Noles. The other: The Marlins. Nice homer Miguel. During lunch in Vail, I took in the Gator game with Steve Y. Would have watched the G-Man Bowl (Miami-FIU) but the Marriott didn't get ESPNU. So there.

And today, the good folks in Calgary made sure we didn't miss a play of the Dolphins debacle. Not only was the Fox feed in the media lounge, but on the large high-def scoreboards inside the arena as well.

-- Here is a picture of the Saddledome from my vantage point coming into Calgary. And before you all start ripping my camera, remember it came from a cellphone. On an aside, I had never flown Frontier before today, but props to them. Good flight, nice people. And, yes, I paid full fare.

Calgary2 -- Left the hotel at 6 a.m. local time to make my flight, and as I was walking to the car, noticed a rustling in the bushes. In Florida, one might expect a lizard, a rodent or perhaps a small alligator to come out. Instead, out popped a little rabbit. Some might call it a wild hare, but I don't want to get personal.

September 15, 2007

Vail, Day 2

VailsnowVAIL, Colo. -- Greetings from the second day of training camp, coming to you love from Dobson Arena in scenic Vail Valley.

The first group to hit the ice today is now off, and it looked like another productive outing. Really liked what I saw out of Jay Bouwmeester, and Kenndal McArdle looks really good -- although he will not make the team this year.

Rob Globke got roughed up a little, as did David Booth (tripped up by Bouwmeester's stick). The second group is coming on now, but don't know if I'm staying for the whole thing. Stephen Weiss also took a surprising elbow as he stood alongside the boards. The guy delivering the check: Assistant coach Mike Kitchen. You might be able to read about the hit on Stephen's web diary at floridapanthers.com.

-- Special thanks to Alan Cohen, the team's owner who opened up his beautiful home here in nearby Avon. Mr. Cohen treated the traveling party to a nice dinner, and it was nice to hang out with everyone in a very casual setting. The movie theater room turned into an NHL08 game room was very popular, as was the pool table.

-- Mike Maroone, the South Florida car magnate, was at the dinner Friday night. I had to stifle the urge to shout "who ya gonna call?" as we were introduced. Those of you who don't live in South Florida probably aren't going to get that reference.

-- Spoke with Michael Yormark last night, and he says the team is definitely toning down the in-house ads and have actually consolidated sponsors so it's not so ad-heavy at the games. I'll believe that when I see it. But Michael sounded sincere, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

He also added there is going to be a new kids area on the 100 level mezzanine, a place for the kiddies to play and enjoy their own ice cream parlor. The Panthers are also adding a kid-sized version of Stanley C. Panther, a mini-Stanley if you will, who will be hanging out with the kids.

-- So, you got questions do ya? Here are some answers I hope that help.

From PanthersRule96: Hey George, nice update. I was wondering what your take on Repik is in regards to his situation in camp. I know he was signed over the summer and has made it known he will do what it takes to get to the NHL level ASAP, but is Jacques willing to give him a look if he performs in camp or will he be sent back to juniors or minors unless he absolutely lights the world on fire? Thanks.

G: I think Repik looks good, but the Panthers aren't going to rush him. They don't need to. They feel confident in the depth of the organization and Repik is going to get an opportunity this preseason but will be back in juniors.

From Holy Jokinen: i've always been interested in the designs on goalie masks...my question is, does vokoun have his new mask yet? i saw in some of your pictures a few weeks ago that he was still wearing the nashville mask, but in this latest pictures, they both look different. if so, can you take a picture of it for us? thanks again for the work you do for us!

G: No problemo Holy. Good eyes. I didn't catch that. And according to Red -- the Panthers' equipment guru -- that mask came in just yesterday. It's not the most exciting mask in the league, but it's what Tomas wanted. You asked, you receive:
Mask1 Mask2 Mask3

September 14, 2007

First Official Post of the Season

Vail2VAIL, Colorado -- The gang's all here, and Jacques sends his best.

Hockey season has officially begun in the Sunshine State, even if we had to kick it off in Colorado.

The first practice is in the books, the Zamboni wiping the frozen slate clean for the second workout. Team A did some nice things in its workout, and was skated hard in the final 15 minutes of their session.

Here are a few highlights from the morning (started at 7 a.m. WAC time) practice:

-- Olli Jokinen was working alongside Richard Zednik and Stefan Meyer and had a couple good shots on Tomas Vokoun; Ville Peltonen, skating with Kamil Kreps and Anthony Stewart, fired one past Vokoun; Zednik drilled one off the post; Rostislav Olesz scored on youngster Tyler Plante.

-- The Panthers' weekend show on 790 The Ticket kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. Jeremy Marks Peltz will serve as your host this weekend. The show's name? Panthers Unrestricted: Weekend Edition. It plans to run every Saturday until the end of the season. I'm figuring if Florida makes the playoffs, the show will go on.

Also, JM is going to have a weekly show on 790. It'll be Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m., hosted by Joe Rose -- err, Sid Rosenberg.

-- The Thrashers' new jerseys are out. Put them in the OK pile. Like the road jerseys; they spell out the word Atlanta on one of the sleeves, just so there was no confusion. Hokie, and I don't mean Virginia Tech.

-- Preseason numbers: Zednik wears 20; Vokoun 29; Cory Murphy 21; Dvorak is back in 19; Michal Repik sportin the 32; Welch 27.

More pics:

Vail3 Vail4

September 13, 2007

Time for Camp!

CampVAIL, Colorado -- Greetings from SkiCity, the current home of the Florida Panthers.

Yes, Margate's favorite hockey team is west bound and down, hanging out in one of the world's great places for snow skiing. Only there's no snow. And it's not that cold out (although I do have the fireplace cranking in the hotel room. Have to take advantage of such amenities.)

From what I've heard -- I've been traveling the past 12 hours -- nothing big happened. All but one player passed his physical and is currently in Colorado.

Steve Montador was the only player not to make the trip west, apparently suffering from some sort of back pain. The team decided to keep the veteran d-man back and he's scheduled for an MRI in Broward County sometime on Friday. Will update when I know.

That means the team will be at 42 for the time being.

Vail1 -- See what I mean about the lack of snow? Took this while barreling down I-70 in my rentaGMC. Relax, it was with the Treo so I still had one hand on the wheel.

-- The tap water here is phenomenal. Would bottle it up and sell it, only there's no way people would pay for water in a bottle when you can get it for free. That's just crazy talk.

-- Here's today's schedule. Change of venue from year's past as the world's coldest rink (seriously) in nearby Eagle isn't available. The team will actually practice in Vail proper, at a Dobson Arena.

All times local (meaning Mountain West or WAC or PAC-10. Whatever it is. We're two hours behind Miami time).

Team A: Practice 7-8:30 a.m.; Off-ice 9:15-10
Team B: Practice 8:30-10 a.m.; Off-ice 10:45-11:30 a.m.

September 12, 2007

Welch Gets Deal Done

NoahwelchChalking it up to just a timing issue, Noah Welch and the Panthers came to an agreement to a contract just days before training camp opens.

The Panthers announced the deal Wednesday, although Welch says everything became official Tuesday night. Anywho, it's done. Welch, acquired from Pittsburgh in the Gary Roberts deal, gets a two-year deal worth $1.3 million.

More important than the cash, however, is the fact that the contract is a one-way contract. Which means he's part of the Panthers from the start. As he said today, that doesn't mean he's going to get playing time. He has to earn that.

It looks like Florida will carry eight d-men, so there is going to be a premium on playing time and the best will get it and the odd two out will get a seat with me in the press box (hey, it's not that bad. You get hot dogs in Carolina during the intermissions, and the popcorn in Tampa Bay is pretty good.)

More in the Herald tomorrow.

-- Today was the last day of volunteer workouts at Incredible Ice. It appeared that almost the whole team was there, although some guys took a break from the ice and did workouts upstairs instead.

Team checks in this morning in Sunrise at the Broward Arena, JM and some players will meet with the gathered media, then it's off to Colorado.

I plan on keeping everyone up to date on things, so my next post will probably be from the Rocky Mountains.

September 10, 2007

Roster Battles? Not Many

ClipboardComing into training camp, don't see too many slots available for this year's version of the Florida Panthers.

One would think that's a good thing.

Don't know how many players JM plans on carrying (he can carry 20 on the roster or as many as 23) this season, but we'll know after the final exhibition game at Atlanta on Sept. 28. After that, the team comes home, JM makes the final roster cuts and we all head to West Point, N.Y. to gear up for the start of the regular season.

Here's my take on the roster situation, barring injuries or such:

-- Forwards (12-13)

IN (11): Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, Gregory Campbell, Radek Dvorak, Brett McLean, Rostislav Olesz, Ville Peltonen, Jozef Stumpel, Richard Zednik, David Booth.

Looking to get in: Drew Larman, Kamil Kreps, Rob Globke, Anthony Stewart.

-- Defensemen (8)

In (8): Bryan Allen, Jay Bouwmeester, Branislav Mezei, Steve Montador, Cory Murphy, Ruslan Salei, Mike Van Ryn, Noah Welch.

-- Goalies (2)

In (2): Tomas Vokoun, Craig Anderson.

So there you are. Makes for a not-so-interesting camp since it appears all is set. No goalie controversy, no real fights. But JM should be able to get his team to gel throughout this camp since he knows who is going to be around.

It's Hockey Time

PuckheadTime to let loose hockey fan.

It's about time to let the pucks loose and put the summer behind us.

Yes, it's time for some hockey.

The Panthers are finishing up their rookie camp in Ontario today, then come home to begin the 2007-08 season in earnest. Players will be at the Tamarac arena come Thursday for physicals and strength testing, then they'll load up in a shiny bus and head on over to the airport. From there they'll fly to Vail, Colorado, where training camp begins Friday morning.

After a couple of practices, the Panthers open their preseason with a game against former coach and GM Mike Keenan in Calgary on Sunday night.

Yep, the Panthers will be playing a game within a week. That's less than seven days folks, even by a Canadian calender.

Seriously, getting fired up yet?


Shawn in Tamarac writes:

George, read your post on XM Radio; The great news is that Sirius and XM will soon be one. Hopefully it gets approval to merge soon. I also listen to HomeICE every day, and I cant wait till its live all day once the preseason starts. I miss Espo's gum chompin' grizzy voice.

G: The more the merrier....

PJ in Miami: Hey George nice article on louie. i know he says he didnt wanna leave but that contract was on the table for him the whole season.he is a very good goalie will be a hall of famer no doubt.my question to you is do you think vokoun can take louies spot and do you think that he is as much a game stealer as louie is ?

G: The Panthers sure hope so. I think the Vokoun is going to be just fine.

Scott in Plantation:
Hey George, how did practice look today? Just basic stuff I'm assuming. Is everyone there or is it like football with just rookies pretty much for now and vets reporting later? I'm really excited to see how some of the young prospects look. I think we are really stocking up our minor system with some good players. Either for us in the future, or as trade pieces. What do you think?

G: These practices involve just about anyone who wants to show up. And I think the Panthers have a nice bit of depth in their system, something that showed last year. When the team had to fill a spot, they went to their system and brought someone up. That said, expectations for those players is up.

September 05, 2007

Rookie Camp Ready to Start

RookieThe Panthers are gathering in Kitchener, Ontario, for their annual rookie camp with a number of the team's top young players taking advantage of the extra ice time in front of team management.

Some of them think they got a shot at making the team out of training camp this year, so good luck to them in that. Martin plans on bringing over 40 players to camp next week, so there is an opportunity out there to impress.

Some of the team's high-profile youngsters taking part: Kenndal McArdle, Michael Frolik, Shawn Matthias (picked up in Bertuzzi Trade II), Tyler Plante, David Shantz and Michal Repik.

The Panthers are joined at their camp by youngsters from the Penguins, Senators and Maple Leafs.

The schedule -- Today: Meetings, dinner; Thursday: Practice; Friday: Panthers vs. Ottawa, 2; Pens vs. Leafs, 6:30. Saturday: Panthers vs. Pens, 2; Sens vs. Leafs, 6:30; Sunday: Sens vs. Pens, 2; Panthers vs. Leafs, 6:30; Monday: Third place game, 2; Championship, 6:30.

All games are at the Kitchener Auditorium.

Will be on the road this weekend, but will try to give updates as much as possible.

September 04, 2007

Not So Fast My Friend

Corso Here it is, Tuesday night and FSN Florida is showing a game between Appalachian State and Michigan.

The I-AA Mountaineers are actually leading the host Wolverines 28-17 at halftime. Wow! I can't believe this is happening.

But there's no way Appalachian State beats Michigan in the Big House. No way. I may keep watching this game, but if Leno has someone interesting on, I'm changing the channel.

Seriously, Michigan losing to Appalachian State? Next thing you're going to tell me is Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne is headed off to prison. Or Notre Dame's vaunted offense could only muster three against Georgia Tech.


-- While watching the game, I saw a great graphic pop up: The last time Michigan was trailing a non-ranked opponent at halftime at home was Michigan State in 2004. Only my friend Mike would know something like that. Great graphic.

-- It seems the BigTen Network is still struggling to get cable and satellite providers to put it on basic. Every commercial break offers another Big 11 coach pimping the network to viewers prodding them to call their cable people. Like that does anything. "The Hoosiers aren't on basic cable,'' interim IU coach Bill Lynch says in his ad.

It really is a shame this network isn't on our already very-basic cable offerings down here. I can think of a few dozen folks in South Florida who want to watch IU football in South Florida. Of course, most of them play -- or coach -- for the Miami-by-way-of-Bloomington Dolphins. And they can afford to pay for said network.

-- Speaking of that, the BigTen Network couldn't have chosen a better game to make their debut than this one. Good call.

Zippy_2 Let us hope the Akron Zips makes the network 2-for-2 in the upset department as they are televising Saturday's game at the Horseshoe (that means Akron is visiting Ohio State at Ohio Stadium. And I'm rooting for the Zips. As usual.)

-- Here's another nugget of information you really only get here: BigTen announcers Charles Davis and Tom Brennaman have done called their share of upsets lately.

Their past three games: Oklahoma-Boise State (Fox), Ohio State-Florida (Fox) and Michigan-Appalachian State (BigTen). And yes, they're working the Akron game.

-- Back to hockey. Tomorrow.

-- Yes, Mike Van Ryn seemed a little ticked when Michigan Football was brought up today.

-- The Flames unveiled their new Reebok jerseys late Tuesday night and really didn't change a whole lot as you can see below.

Word was Mike Keenan was trying to trade Calgary's Flaming C (go ahead and snicker) logo to Anaheim for Todd Bertuzzi and the rights to the name "Mighty Ducks" and the old Donald Duck logo.

In all seriousness, I like the road whites with the old-school red/yellow C.

OK, flaming C.


Louie's Back

Luongo3Roberto Luongo was back on familiar ice Tuesday, working out at Incredible Ice with a bunch of his former Florida teammates.

Luongo has spent time this summer working out at Incredible Ice while staying at his Parkland home, but is gearing up for training camp of his own in British Columbia.

Luongo was wearing his Vancouver practice jersey, his white 'Johnny Canuck' mask and green and blue pads; after practice, he spoke about a number of things, including how exciting Vancouver's playoff run was last season. Luongo looks tan, healthy and happy; he looks ready to pick up where he left off.

Luongo says he believes a lot of the bitterness is gone about last year's trade and that he thinks this is Florida's year to break though.

Last season when the Panthers came to Vancouver, Roberto seemed to mock the Panthers' always-sunny disposition, saying "from what I see, I don’t think things have changed very much down there. I know they are not where they want to be in the standings, and that’s the main issue. First and foremost you want to be in the playoffs and they need to go on a bit of a run to get back in the race. ''

Roberto on Tuesday: "I think this year might be the year they finally make the playoffs. They've made some good moves during the offseason. It would be nice to see the team succeed here because the fan base is only going to grow if that happens. It's a nice place to play so it would be a shame to have another season like they've had in the past. Again, I think this year it's time for them to make their stride.''

Also: "I'm fortunate that they let me skate here, that those guys would invite me back. Obviously, as I've said a million times before, my plan was not for me to leave here. But things happen for a reason, and for me, things couldn't have worked out better. And now I get to enjoy the summers down here. With the heat. And the rain. I get the rain in both places. It's all right though. I'm not going to complain.''

Louie says he spent the past couple weeks in Montreal and is back in town packing up and getting ready for training camp. He adds he can't wait for Vancouver's visit to South Florida in Feb., and adds the game will be a sellout if only because his in-laws will buy so many tickets.

Summertime Hockey

SummerpracticeTook in a little practice at Incredible Ice on Tuesday and was impressed not only with the number of players out there, but with the speed and work done on the ice.

While I was impressed with the turnout last year, it appears this year is even better. And, with Finnish coach Vesa Surenkin running things, there's more cohesion and more work being accomplished.

"He's really running us,'' defenseman Mike Van Ryn said, resting after the hard workout that included laps around the ice.

Players in attendance (that I remember): Van Ryn, Ruslan Salei, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, Kamil Kreps, Olli Jokinen, Craig Anderson, Tomas Vokoun, Drew Larman, Richard Zednik, Steve Montador. Also in the house: Roberto Luongo, Brendan Witt and Viktor Kozlov.

-- Jay Bouwmeester got his legal issues cleared up Tuesday, pleading guilty to his DUI charge from last summer in Edmonton. According to TSN, Bouwmeester got a one-year driving probation and a $1,000 fine.

I know Bo is embarrassed this whole thing ever happened and I'm sure he's glad to have it behind him. Lesson learned? The Panthers hope so, and I think yes. Now we have to see if the NHL is going to further punish Jay because his guilty plea leads to a conviction.

-- On a similar note, the NHL has suspended Leafs' forward Mark Bell indefinitely after being convicted of drunk driving last month. In this case, someone got hurt.  Bell confirmed the suspension to the Toronto Star, and says he won't appeal it.

Bell was charged with a hit-and-run on the outskirts of San Jose on Labor Day 2006. He was traded to the Leafs along with goalie Vesa Toskala on draft day. Bell says he's been in a recovery program and hasn't partaken of alcohol since the accident.

After the season ends, Bell is to serve six months in prison.

"They said I'll get over it and just keep moving ahead," Bell told the Star. "I'm meeting it head on, and taking steps to make it better, and learning from mistakes I made."

To read more on Bell's suspension, check out the Star's story here TORONTO STAR, EH.

For a good read on Bell's road to recovery and getting himself straightened out, check here MORE STAR STUFF

-- The Panthers open up their rookie camp tomorrow in Kitchner, Ont. Will have more info on that in another post. JM is apparently in Winnipeg scouting the Russian/Canada junior super series, and will join up with the rest of the organization in Kitchner tomorrow.

-- Interesting news out of San Jose today where Jeremy Roenick has signed a one-year deal to play for the Sharks and forgo retirement for a little while longer.

"We feel he can add something to the talented group of players on our club,'' GM Doug Wilson said in a statement, "and we feel that this is an environment where Jeremy can be successful."

It should be noted that JR is only five goals shy of the 500 plateau.

-- Montreal unveiled their new unis today, with Calgary and Pittsburgh on deck. Not much change for the Habs, as expected.  And welcomed. Habsjerseys