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35 posts from October 2007

October 17, 2007

Toronto Marlins

MarliesTORONTO -- Went to Florida's practice just outside of downtown Toronto; held at the Ricoh Coliseum, home to the AHL's Toronto Marlins.

Don't know why they are called the Marlins, but word is the junior team here is called the Marlboros, and I guess being named after a Florida fish is better than being called a cigarette.

Truth is, I don't know what a Marlie is, just assumed they misspelled Marlins is all. So I'm sticking with that and ignoring that Marlboro is a name synonymous with English nobility. And good, light tasting cigarettes with less tar and nicotine than the other leading brand!

Some news came out of the session; Branislav Mezei is back in the lineup tomorrow against the Leaves, replacing the injured Noah Welch. According to JM, Welch is flying back to SFla today to be looked at by team doctors. Welch has a dislocated shoulder suffered when he hit the ice after throwing down in Tuesday's victory at Montreal.

JM does not know how long Welch is going to be out.

-- JM adds Steve Montador will probably not play on this trip despite Monty's claims of being 100 percent. JM says look for Montador to come back from his knee injury Wednesday against the high-flying Phlyers.

-- Tomas Vokoun took the day off after making 36 saves and beating the Habs. Lazy.

-- Speaking of Philadelphia, that 4-0 loss last night was indeed Bob Hartley's final game as coach of the Thrashers. JM says the firing of his fellow divisional coach is disappointing, yet part of the game. Hartley apparently wasn't very popular with his players, with some whispers that this Atlanta team was tanking it to get Hartley canned. Don't know if I believe that; I do think ATL is better than they've shown, but I picked them to finish fifth in the SE for a reason.

Yo Yo Toronto

JoecarterTORONTO -- Greetings from the Greatest City in the World (not really) where the Panthers have gathered and will try to play a full game tomorrow.

Florida was not charged with grand larceny in Montreal, although there has been an investigation launched after the Panthers escaped the Capital City with a victory despite being outplayed throughout.

It's called payback. Two years ago Florida outplayed the Habs for 50-plus minutes, then lost its lead in the final minutes before losing in a shootout. Last year, Alex 'Coyote Ugly' Auld shutout Montreal for 65 minutes, then lost in a shootout.

So forgive the Panthers if they don't cry any tears for Montreal today. They got the win; that's all that matters -- to an extent. Florida's lack of intensity is troubling as it seems to happen far too often.

-- Hard to believe this team is riding a three-game win streak. Don't think there's a lot of confidence there as one might expect. Honestly, Florida very easily could have lost to Tampa Bay on Saturday and should have lost Tuesday. Don't want to be a spoilsport, but this team still has some kinks to work out.

-- Practice today at the old Coliseum, home of the Marlies. Going to find out the extent of Noah Welch's shoulder injury, as no one expects him to play here tomorrow. Guess he can watch his Red Sox from the comfort of the locker room.

-- Oh yeah: Go Tribe.

-- Congrats to old pal Bernie Kosar on his Indians; he's also bringing arena football to C-Town. A natural fit. Arena football in Cleveland is going to work.

October 16, 2007

Bon Jour from Montreal

ExposMONTREAL -- Greetings from Montreal, Canada's Capital City*, where tonight the Panthers try to continue to excel at Molson Center.

Do you realize the Habs haven't scored a regulation goal against the Panthers here since 2003? And one of those dudes who did score was Richard Zednik?

Anyway, going to do the live blog since tonight's game isn't being televised back to SoFla on local tv. It is on national TV here in Canada, with Canadian ESPN (TSN) on the call.

Hanging on the gondola with  the usual jokers, Brian X and Steve Y. Bonus guests tonight: Goldie, Mitchie the Kid, and Davey Joseph.

Now, onto the game...

(*) I know Montreal isn't the capital of Canada. Toronto is.

(**) OK, guys, was just joking about the Toronto thing. Everyone knows Vancouver is Canada's capital. Speaking of that, will be in Ottawa come Friday. Looking forward to it...


-- They speak some kind of weird Spanish up here. I can get around Little Havana, no problem, but here...man, none of my Spanish works. They look at me like I'm loco. Eight? Ocho?

-- Can't wait until the first intermission. Why? Montreal's famous press box hot dogs. With a little mustard and relish? Oh yeah...

-- Youppi! is walking around the ice, almost getting run over by a Zamboni. Glad the Nationals didn't take the little fella with them to Washington.

-- Ate at a killer steakhouse today. Called La Queue de Cheval. Means 'The Horse's Tail.' I said some things today that I admit was out of line. But they didn't need to call me 'The Horse's .....'

Montreal -- One thing I love about coming here is the history. Even though this arena is new and the Forum is a shopping center, you just feel something special about coming in here. This is the best place I've ever been to watch a hockey game, bar none. And just about every player I've talked to says the same. Don't see any Celine Dion banners hanging in this joint (although, if there was one arena where there should be one, this is it.)

-- As usual, a few 'Horse's Tails' have to ruin the experience by booing the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' Although less idiots than usual. Must be the strong Canadian loony.

-- Race car driver and Montreal native Patrick Carpentier is being honored today. Given a Guy Lafluer No. 10 jersey at center ice. By the Flower himself! Pretty cool. Carpentier is going NASCAR on us, joining Gillett/Evernham racing next year. Pat Gillett owns the Habs.

-- GAME ON....

-- Mike Van Ryn in the box 1:36 in; MON scores first, Alex Kovalev on the rebound, five hole...1-0 HABS

-- Goldie calling the game for Steve Y (for free)...

-- For those wondering why tonight's game isn't on local TV: According to new rules, Versus has Monday and Tuesday to themselves. If Vs. is broadcasting a national game, local teams cannot compete against it. Good for them, bad for you...

-- Tribe Time! Eight minutes to post...

-- Come on Joe Girardi! Enough of the pregame already!

-- Don't know if you all saw this, and I plan to do more later, but Tampa's Vinny Lecavalier has pledged $3 million to build a children's hospital in St. Pete. That, friends, is going above and beyond.

-- Six minutes left in first...FLA shots: 2.

-- Cats end the first with four shots. This team is dead, dead, dead....no life whatsoever.


-- FLA kills off penalty...we're in the second now...Habs outshooting Cats 16-6...

-- Flyers beating Thrash 3-0; ATL about to become 0-6. Could there be a new coach in the SE division in the coming future?

-- Panthers, meanwhile, getting dogged. Outshot (lanced?) 24-10 here midway through the second. And luckily for the Kitties, it's still only 1-0...

-- Starting to get a little chippy, but FLA still has done nothing offensively. To say they've had one legit scoring chance in the second period may be being nice. 4:06 left in the second, MON 1-0; Shots: 26-10.

-- Noah Welch and Tom Kostopoulous throw in response to Tommy the Greek decking Olli a few minutes earlier. The Greek wins, Noah should have never tossed his helmet.


October 15, 2007

Timeout! Never mind...

Fabfive_2Don't know if anyone saw this or not, but Jalen Rose says Michigan's Fab Five get no love in Michigan, so he erected a billboard in Detroit to honor the Wolverines former freshmen sensations.

It's the 15th anniversary of the year these five -- Rose, Chris 'Oops' Webber, Ray Jackson, Juwan Howard and Jimmy King -- all started as freshmen for the Maize and Blue. The Fab Five brought us out of the tight shorts era, if you remember, being the first to wear baggy shorts. And black socks.

Only thing is, they didn't win anything at U-M. They came close, sure. And Michigan had to remove almost all references to the Fab Five era because Webber took a bundle of money from a booster. It's like he didn't even go there.

But those are semantics. I loved the Fab Five. Lots of fun. And they were ahead of their time, fashion-wise. I can't believe it's been 15 years already.

Read the rest of the story in the Free Press, right here FAB FIVE STOOD FOR 'FABULOUS FIVE'

-- Heading to Montreal, home of the Expos, smoked meat sandwiches and Poutine. Will have a sandwich, am going to skip the gravy-cheesefries I think.

Olli Jokinen gets to make some history on Tuesday; consider this: If Olli scores a point, he gets the franchise record for points all to himself. A goal ties him for the franchise record, two sets it. And just by stepping on the ice, he ties the record for consecutive games played. Robert Svehla owns the Iron Man mark, at least for now. Olli has a good knowledge of this game's history, and I really think he would like to set some records in Montreal.

-- Last time we were in Montreal, Ed Belfour pitched a shutout after scattering three hits. Was it really only a few months ago? Seems like decades.

-- For those of you without Center Ice, Tuesday may be a good chance to check out the new radio team of Randy 'Red Beard' Moller and Billy 'Don't Call Me Sid' Lindsay on 790 AM. Game isn't being televised locally. Denis and Goldie return Thursday in Toronto.

October 12, 2007

Back to School

BelushiGuess who's back on campus?

Ed Belfour.

According to a story in the Grand Forks Herald (originally attributed here to a wire report but after some research found the original story), Eddie the Eagle is back at his alma mater working with the University of North Dakota hockey team.

Belfour, who led the Fighting Sioux to a national championship, is preparing for his upcoming season in Sweden.

The Fighting Sioux face Michigan State on Saturday night. Belfour's last game at North Dakota came against the Spartans in the 1987 national title game.

According to the Grand Forks story, Belfour brought the Stanley Cup to Grand Forks after winning it with Dallas in 1999. During the lockout, he went to the Frozen Four to cheer on his team.

Belfour_3 According to something I read in Canada, Sir Ed is expected to report to Leksand, his Swedish club, sometime this weekend. So, no more parties in Dakota for Eddie!

Story was written by Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. It was picked up by AP, which has distributed it around the world. But without proper -- as is usually the case in these situations -- attribution to the original writer.

Read the original version here (it has a lot of stuff AP chopped off too): NORTH DAKOTA IS WONDERFUL THIS TIME 'O YEAR

-- Speaking of parties, ran into Doug MacLean up in Tampa the other night. Says all is going well in his ownership bid for the Lightning and hopes to have the deal done before the year is out.

He plans to be in the building Saturday night when his Lightning take on your Panthers.

-- The Panthers will do their part to raise awareness for the league's fight against cancer Saturday. All the coaches and broadcasters will wear specially made pink ties for the NHL Fights Cancer initiative. Obviously a good cause. You can do your part by visiting the league's website and making a donation, or by pledging a couple bucks at the game tomorrow.

-- According to the Panthers, the woman hit by the puck Thursday night is fine. She was treated and released last night.

Grounded Flyer

BoulericeSorry about the lack of posts the past two days. Yesterday I drove back from Tampa and the two Nike outlets along the way slowed my progress. Today, I had to travel to Miami.

To make the usual drive worse, the Prez is in town which just snarled things up pretty nastily.

Caught a glimpse of the Presidential limo parked outside the Omni; things must be getting tough. Apparently they traded in the Cadillac for a Kia.

The big news in hockey is the Panthers finally winning a game. Actually, the big story comes from Philly where the NHL suspended Flyers' forward Jesse Boulerice for a whopping 25 games without pay. The suspension is, of course, in reaction to his ugly crosscheck of Vancouver's Ryan Kessler.

“This was more than a careless and reckless play – it was senseless,” Colin Campbell said in a statement. "We will not tolerate this kind of conduct.''

I agree. Boulerice went to the head with his stick. What did he think would be the end result? He went after Kessler in the heat of things, and now he's going to pay for his reckless play. I do think the 25 games is a good number, and the NHL is sending a signal to its players that this crap isn't going to be tolerated.  The suspension is longest in NHL history -- tied with the suspension given to the Islanders  Chris Simon last year. Incidentally, Simon's suspension ends this weekend -- when the Islanders play the Flyers.

Here's some stuff out of Philly: Because Steve Downie was suspended for 20 games and Boulerice has been hit with 25, the two might have to alternate time on the roster. That means the suspensions could last longer than scheduled.

Says GM Paul Holmgren: "I did suspect the worst. I expected (fewer games) than this, but I talked to Jesse and this was a careless act on his part. I think Colin Campbell is in a very difficult position. I respect the work he does and based on what the league is trying to do in terms of hits to the head, it’s probably a fair penalty.''

And: "We’re all in agreement, There’s no place in the game for this anymore. I think Jesse just lost his composure, lost his cool, and it was not the right thing to do - at any time.''

Thanks to Charles Gormley of the South Jersey Courier-Post for the notes.

Thoughts on the suspension...Too much? Too little? Too much too soon?

As always, posting comments is free...

October 10, 2007

Back in Tampa

Gratts TAMPA -- Ran into old pal Chris Gratton today in the hallway underneath the Ice Palace, and, as always, had a good conversation/interview. There was a reason Gratts was always one of our go-to guys. He's honest, forthcoming and thoughtful.

In other words, a good interview.

Anyway, a lot of this is going to run tomorrow in the Herald, but he told me he was initially surprised by the July trade, yet after thinking about it a while, says the surprise wore off. "I think I saw some signs last year,'' he said.

After his scary incident where he got smacked in the face with a stick and almost had irreparable eye damage, Gratton is now wearing a visor (and according to Olli, he's now going without a visor starting tonight.) Gratton says the eye injury was scary because "sometimes you take the simple things for granted.''

Again, more tomorrow.


-- G Craig Anderson gets the start tonight, Tomas Vokoun back in net tomorrow against the Devils.

-- D Mike Van Ryn back in the lineup. Noah Welch appears to be the odd man out.

-- Todd Bertuzzi may miss tonight's home opener in Anaheim. Nothing serious, he says, just a groin injury suffered in the loss at Columbus.

-- Also, thanks to all those who sent in questions for Panthers players yesterday and today. Got a few good ones. Have a few stockpiled, but not many. If you have a specific question to be asked of a specific player for next Sunday's NHL Extra, please email it to me at grichards@miamiherald.com

-- Here's my notebook that appeared in Wednesday's paper. It hasn't found its way online yet. Trying to iron out some of the glitches....


Two games into the season and Jacques Martin is already shuffling the Florida lines. In practice Tuesday, the top line consisted of Olli Jokinen, Ville Peltonen and Richard Zednik as expected.

Martin changed up the rest of the lines, moving David Booth up to the second line to replace Rostislav Olesz. Booth will play on a line with center Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton. Olesz moves to the third line with center Jozef Stumpel and Radek Dvorak. Gregory Campbell centers a fourth line featuring Rob Globke and Brett McLean on the wings.

“I think he may be more similar to Martin Gelinas in using his speed to get in there and finish checks,’’ Martin said of Booth’s promotion. “We don’t have one line that’s produced, so you try and find something that works.’’

Said Booth: “Hopefully we can get something going.’’

The Panthers have scored just three goals in two games this season.


With the Panthers about to play two games in as many nights, Martin said backup Craig Anderson would see some playing time to spell starter Tomas Vokoun.

Martin did not indicate which game Anderson would play in, but in years past, Martin has gone with the starter in the first game and if he felt the starter didn’t see too much time might stick with him in the second game as well. “The plans are to let Craig play one of those games,’’ Martin said.

Tuesday, Martin said he spoke with Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. According to Martin, Vigneault told him to be patient with Vokoun (0-2) because Roberto Luongo got off to a slow start last year as he adjusted to a new team, city and conference.

“Confidence is a factor,’’ Martin said. “He has to work his way into the goaltending he’s capable of. Everyone goes through that. Alain called me, and told me it took Louie a little while to get going last year. Sometimes there’s a period of adjustment when you come to a new team. Tomas had a good session today. We’ll keep working.’’


When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/Radio: FSNF/790 The Ticket

The Scoop: The two teams have gotten off to opposite starts. Tampa Bay is 2-0 with victories against New Jersey and Atlanta; Florida is 0-2 with losses at New York and against Jersey. .-.-. Panthers have owned series since lockout ended, winning 11 of 16 meetings. Panthers were 2-2 in Tampa last year. .-.-. Former Panther Chris Gratton (traded in July) is scoreless in two games with Bolts.


October 07, 2007

Sunday Skate

SkatingIf you weren't at Incredible Ice Sunday, you missed some good old fashioned hockey fun.

Jacques Martin was back on the ice and put his team through an intense practice. The team did a lot of puck control /possession and speed drills, JM saying he wanted to stress that effort can't tail off after 20, 40 or 50 minutes of play.

The team came off the ice exhausted and sweaty. But they get today off, next practice Tuesday morning in Coral Springs. It's open to the public if you want to play a little hooky. Tell the boss you ate some bad bacon -- or some sort of shellfish -- and you should be right as rain. Just don't spend the rest of the day golfing or fishing. Getting a sunburn after calling in sick isn't too smart. Yeah, it's happened to me back in my Publix days. Hey, it was a Canes game.

-- Kamil Kreps is headed back to Rochester, so either Richard Zednik is back on Wednesday or JM is going to play all seven D-men and not bench anyone. Or, he's calling someone else up before Wednesday's game in Brandon.

-- Olli says don't blame Tomas Vokoun for Florida's first 0-2 start since 2001. "We're not making the plays,'' the captain said.

-- Nathan Horton said he wasn't fighting out of frustration Saturday night, but was just trying to defend himself. Looks like Nate has a future in mixed martial arts fighting once he retires. Dude was throwing hard and fast. And that's on skates. But, you don't want Nathan fighting too much. Being a big part of the offense, Florida's offense suffers if he's in the box for five minutes every night. But last night was OK. Game was out of reach, five minutes left. And it fired up the diehards who stuck it out.

Natefights -- Here's Herald staff photog John VanBeekum's photo of the fight; Nate liked it so much he stole my sports section. I didn't have the heart to tell him the Sunday Herald only costs 50 cents in Broward County.

October 06, 2007

Open House

OpenhouseThe Panthers open their doors tonight and will welcome a large crowd to the BankAtlantic Center for their 2007-08 season opener.

We'll see if they stick to their edict that 'Less Ads Is More.'

Was at the arena for the morning skate, noticed a few things. First off, the place is nice and clean. Feels ready for a season opener. A nice touch is each player's jersey hangs from the ceiling in the main concourse. Also, the kids zone is open, and that will be a welcome addition.

And, finally, the Florida state flag now hangs from the rafters.

-- Big news out of practice today is that Mike Van Ryn will be a healthy scratch. As you can imagine, Mike's pretty bummed about the demotion. Says he hasn't been a healthy scratch since he was with the Blues back in the early part of his career. Noah Welch is in the third pairing, probably with Cory Murphy. Will have more in tomorrow's paper.

JM wouldn't confirm, saying it was a "game time decision" on who would play. But he said that probably because the NJ media was standing nearby because Mike told us he was told before practice that he wasn't playing. Says he wasn't given a reason, although he didn't play much against the Rangers and admitted he might have seen this coming.

-- Also, lot of mystery surrounding Martin Brodeur. Word is, he wasn't at the skate but is expected to be at BAC by gametime. Still, Kevin Weekes expected to be in net for the Devils, which is good news for the Panthers. Weekes has had him moments against the Panthers, but nowhere near what Brodeur has done over the years.

October 04, 2007

Live from New York, It's Opening Night!

SaturdaynightNEW YORK -- Don't really have a monologue, and I'm not pimping my newest movie. Just visiting 30 Rock getting ready for a little hockey.

Good vibe here in the Windy City, folks seem jacked about this Rangers team. Good for them. They should be. This is a great offensive team with great goaltending. The defense? Yikes. Different story here. So it'll be interesting to see what happens.

A lot of Met fans will be tuning in tonight, because, what else do they have to do in October? The Yankee fans might have a wary eye tuned west to Cleveland, but hopefully, they'll be watching hockey soon enough too.

-- As expected, JM didn't want to get into his one-worded comment to Dan LeBatard's question about the Luongo trade. Basically said that was two years ago, let's start this season. But when asked if he regretted making the comment, JM said no, he was just answering a question posed to him. So there you are.

-- As you all know, Kamil Kreps was recalled from Rochester, and he'll center the fourth line. He's joined by David Booth and Rob Globke. Says in Rochester camp, he's been paired with Anthony Stewart and Dan Collins.

-- D Noah Welch will be the healthy scratch tonight. He spent a lot of time after practice working with Mike Kitchen. On the other side of the ice, Guy Charron was putting Richard Zednik through the paces. No update on Zed just yet.

Berthalloween -- Got some emails from people commenting on my radio work last night on 790 da ticket. Thanks for the kind words, and yes, I've heard the old 'face for radio' comment before. The ESPN Zone was a pretty good place to hang out with some friends from the NHL media relations department and watch baseball. OK, we mostly watched hockey. Seriously! That Sens/Leafs game was pretty entertaining. So was the Ducks/Wings. Nice goal by Bertuzzi. He's pretty good on Opening Night.

-- OK, in my seat ice-side at the Garden. They call it the world's most famous arena, although Philips Arena in Atlanta gets that honor from me. Everyone knows about that place!

-- Great seats here at MSG, although to get here, I first had to be harassed by Isiah Thomas. Can't say I enjoyed it. I know he and Magic shared a peck on the cheek during the 1989 Finals, but at least he could have shaved before he tried saddling up to me. Itchy.

-- Yes, I have the Indians game on. 1-0 Yanks.

-- A little info you'll probably only get here (since the FSN telecast hasn't started): number change for two Panthers. Radek Dvorak goes from 19 to 14; David Booth gets rid of 46 in exchange for Pavel Bure's No. 10; Dale Earnhardt Jr. gives up 8 for 88.

-- Can someone answer me this: Why does MSG have purple and teal seats? Looks like they came out of Miami Arena or something. Still, love this place. Great venue -- one of the best in the league.

-- Why do people cheer when the lights go down? Oh, and game is scheduled to start at 7, but word is the puck ain't dropping until 7:19. So settle in folks.

-- Officials tonight: Kerry Fraser, Gord Dwyer, Darren Gibbs, Andy McElman.

-- Tribe ties it up 1-1...

-- Rangers coming out through the smoke. Just like the Hurricanes, only minus the Orange Bowl.

-- This joint is rocking. Brian Leetch just dropped the ceremonial puck, the anthem was wonderfully done, and it's hockey night in the Big Apple.

-- GAME ON....(Tribe leads 3-1)

-- First Potvin sucks 35 seconds in; first Rangers goal 37 seconds....

Here we go Again

LuonogNEW YORK -- Call it the story that will never die.

Some of you may not remember this, but way back when, the Florida Panthers used to have a goalie named 'Luongo.' Then they traded said goalie to Vancouver for three players -- only one of which currently remains on the team.

One-sided deal? Sure. Worst trade in franchise history? Yeah, safe to say.

In today's Miami Herald, Dan LeBatard does his popular 20 Questions with Panthers coach/GM Jacques Martin. Lots of good stuff, as JM really seems to open up. But one question in particular is going to set off some alarms around the league and definitely will be brought up today in Nueva York:

Dan: True or false -- the Roberto Luongo trade is the worst trade in the history of your sport?

JM: ``[Laughter] [Pause] True.''

Yeah, people are going to be talking about this. Perhaps even a certain fella up in Calgary.

Will keep you updated.

Oh, here's the column. A good read for all Panther people: DAN THE MAN WITH JM (DOES THAT RHYME?)

October 03, 2007

Kicking it in Queens

Kingqueens1QUEENS, N.Y. -- Just made the spectacularly beautiful drive into the city from West Point where the changing of the leaves was just an explosion of color.

Then we hit the George Washington Bridge. From oranges and yellows and reds to browns. A lot of gray. Some off-white. And gone was the fresh air that was flowing threw my rental car (cruising with the windows rolled down and a new Bruce Springsteen CD cranking might be the only way to fly).

Hit the city, roll up the windows. The Mets and the Jets aren't the only things here that stink.

Speaking of the 'Amazins,' my beautiful hotel here at LaGuardia has a nice view of Shea Stadium off in the distance. Looks like they are making some headway on their new stadium as well.


The Panthers held their final practice at Tate Rink at West Point today, their final practice of the preseason. It starts for real come tomorrow. Not a bunch of news, aside from David Booth getting drilled during Tuesday's paintball session. Says he's got plenty of bruises from the multiple shots suffered on a flag-stealing run but adds it was completely worth it.

-- Oh yeah, Richard Zednik isn't playing tomorrow. JM says he could be ready to play in the home opener on Saturday.

-- The Panthers are going with one captain (Olli) and two assistants this year instead of four. And your assistants are.....Stephen Weiss and Bryan Allen. "It's a true honor,'' Allen said.

-- Sports Illustrated came out with their predictions, and they have the Panthers finishing ninth in the east. They also picked the Sharks to beat the Rangers for the Cup.

October 02, 2007

Army Training Sir!

Billmurray WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Second day of practice here at Tate Rink is in the books, JM saying he was very pleased with the work done today. Says the team looked a little sluggish on Monday, and sure, after what they did Sunday night find it hard to blame them.

According to reports, the team took to hiking today, and while the climb was rough, most said the view -- and sense of accomplishment -- was worth it.

JM won't admit it, but this trip has taken its toll on him. It appears that the coach/GM has severely twisted his left ankle, making it hard for him to climb stairs and such. He's going to ice the ankle, but can't skate just yet.

Mark the coach/GM as day-to-day; chances for working behind the bench Thursday in New York very probable.

-- Can't say the same for Richard Zednik. He says he's day to day, says he hopes to practice today and will make a decision on whether to play Thursday. But he says he can't move his injured shoulder so I wouldn't bet on him being in the lineup. JM says he doesn't think any recalls from Rochester will be necessary, instead, he'll play all seven d-men and scrap having a true fourth line.

-- The Panthers are going to have a two-hour preview show Wednesday on 790 The Ticket; the show will originate from the ESPN Zone in Times Square and runs from 7-9 p.m. Sid Rosenberg, Goldie and Randy Moller host the show. Guests include Denis Potvin, JM, Michaell Yormark, Kenny Albert, Ken Daneyko and Bill Lindsay.

-- Took a tour of Army's football stadium today, as well as the enormous weight room. Here are some pics. The Army chopper from Orange County Choppers sits in the middle of the weight room. Seems like a good place for it.

Armybike_2 Armystadium1 Armystadium2 Armystadium3_2 Wpointriver

October 01, 2007

West Point Choppers

SpiderbikeWEST POINT, NY -- Enjoying my brief stay here in the beautiful Hudson River valley where the leaves are changing yet the temperature is only dipping a touch under the 60 degree mark.

That's weather we all can live with, no?

It's mid afternoon here, and the Panthers are probably out in the wild, carrying Branislav Mezei up a mountain or pushing a large tractor tire up the side of a mountain. All this is done in the name of team building, and the guys seem to like it (Olli did say the drills in the Finnish Army were harder, but that was probably because he was in the Army when he was doing drills and not getting watered-down-'cause-these-are-pro-hockey-player drills like he is now).

The guys admit to learning about following orders and following their leaders, something I'm sure JM asked the instructors to focus on. Olli says the team went its own way at times -- especially early on -- last season, and the lessons taught here are that if you go your own way, it's going to hurt those around you. If your lazy and aren't pulling your weight, someone else is going to have to do it instead of focusing on what they need to do.

In other words, this seems to be very beneficial.

Westpointa2 The team is staying on the West Point compound, which if you've never been here, is huge. Just a sprawling mass of mountain, stone buildings, the Hudson River, and a very nice athletic complex. The hockey rink is very nice, as is the basketball gym where the Black Knights play their home games.

The U.S. Army has been very accommodating to us, although I got jostled a bit when I went into a "secure" area to take some photos. I said the people who read my online column love the pictures, but that didn't get me anywhere. Although it almost did get me taken somewhere I didn't want to go. I know better than to mouth off to Army security you know, so all is well.

Will be back tomorrow, and I'll try to be more discreet when I take pictures.

-- One thing that's hard to miss here is all the history. If you take the time to look around, there is plenty of interesting things that can sometimes be moving.

1955holledersi For instance, just outside the rink/gym is a large piece of cement that looks like an odd bench. Look closer and you see a plaque on it. It's a piece of the Pentagon salvaged from the attacks of Sept. 11. And the Holleder Center itself is named after former Army All-American quarterback and basketball player Major Don Holleder.

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Army Infantry, Maj. Holleder was killed in Vietnam.

-- In Panther news Monday, it looks like Richard Zednik could miss some time after being thrown into the boards (again), this time injuring a shoulder. Zednik was very slow getting off the ice, and hours later was still in the training room getting treatment. JM didn't have a timetable for his return. JM is usually very optimistic about things, but today he was talking about looking ahead as if Zednik might miss some time. Will keep you updated on this.

If Zednik is out for the opener, I would expect to see Stumpel brought up from third line center to be on the wing along with Ville Peltonen. Brett McLean could then center the third line and Gregory Campbell centers the fourth.

-- Steve Montador had a knee surgery today, sounds like he had it scoped. JM says there was something in his knee that needed to be cleaned out, and that it had been bothering him to the point where he took a shot to see if they could keep the swelling down. Apparently they couldn't and decided this was just as good a time as any to do the deed.

-- Rostislav Olesz is back to his usual self, the hand injury suffered last week seemingly to be history. He was taking strong slap shots today, passing the puck and even getting into a playful shoving match with Tomas Vokoun.

-- Olli on his days in the Finnish Army: "I used to be the push-up king,'' he said, apparently why he only lasted a few months.

-- Former Army Ranger J.B. Spisso, who puts different groups through Army-like paces, said Olli was singled out by many of his instructors as showing great leadership skills during the first round of drills.
"He definitely showed the leadership traits of a captain off the ice,'' Spisso said. "I think that's just as important as doing it on the ice. ... I think it's benifical you chose a captain not because he's a good player, but because he's a leader off the ice. He has the work ethic and the warrior spirit.''

-- So what did they do?

"I like to call what we did the premier team building event in the free world,'' Spisso said. "It's identical to what I've put soldiers through. I might tone it up or tone it down depending on who the client is. I gotta tell you, I didn't tone it down for the Panthers last night. It was hard, they got wet, and they can tell ya, it was dark as hell out there. They did a phenominal job.

"I like to throw the X-factor at them. It's dark and they are cold and hungry. You need to find out who steps up and becomes a leader. Then you look at that man or woman, or in this case a player, and it might be a third or fourth line guy, and they've stepping forward and helping a teammate. I think the players have a better appreciation for themselves afterward.''

-- Stephen Weiss told us his group kept getting into trouble in their first day of Army training, and they became the push-up kings of the Panthers. Weiss was joking about how they didn't do to well in some of the drills, mostly because they were forced to the ground for "20" every few moments.

-- So, why West Coast Choppers? Because I ran over to East Coast Choppers just down the freeway from my hotel today. Good times, worth the drive. They have about 25 choppers in there, many of which are for sale (although they were waaaaay out of my price range).

Included in the inventory: A vintage-looking NYPD bike; various Spider-Bikes; the Miami Heat championship bike; the NHL chopper; the yellow Livestrong bike-looking, um, bike; and a bunch of others. In typical tourista fashion, I grabbed a t-shirt on my way out. Least I could do.

Ask a Panther

AskacatI have asked many a question in my day. Some have been thoughtful and provoked an insightful response.

Others have brought about a response similar to the one Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy unleashed last month.Gundy

So, I've decided to turn over the work to you.

That's right, hockey fan, you get to ask questions of your favorite Florida Panther player and have that answer published in the hallowed pages of The Miami Herald! I knew you would be excited.

Now, this is going to be a weekly thing; it will run on Sunday, so I would need all questions offered up by Tuesday afternoon.

This is what I need: Your name, city, email and phone number (I will be verifying question is legit so please leave a cellphone number). And, of course, the question you have and the player it is aimed toward. It can be anything you want because I will screen them. Questions asking if Nathan Horton will marry you won't be forwarded. Plus, he's already married, so there.

So, to submit a question, please flip back to our Q&A link on the main Miami Herald hockey page, or simply follow this link:


Again, if you leave off your name, or leave off your phone number, I'm just going to delete the email.

Get thinking folks; It's already Monday....

And remember, not all questions are going to be answered, and some questions asked are going to be held until another time. So keep sending them! The more, the merrier.

Or something like that.