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36 posts from June 2008

June 14, 2008

South Florida: RookieTown, USA

MarinoIt says something about South Florida sports when Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez is the dean of professional coaches in our little corner of the world.

Gonzalez, who did manage the Miami Miracle of the Florida State League about a decade ago, is in his second season with the Marlins. Still, that makes him the Old Man of the South Florida coaching fraternity.

The Panthers are the latest to go green with their coaching search, hiring Peter DeBoer to be the 10th coach in franchise history. DeBoer will make his NHL coaching debut come October. Aside from Gonzalez, none of the other four South Florida pro coaches have ever coached in a big-league game.

The Dolphins have Tony Sparano, a long-time assistant coach getting his first shot at being the head man. Few people know more about the Heat personnel than new head coach Eric Spoelstra, but he's never been the main man on an NBA sideline.

Now we have DeBoer, a guy who will have the advantage of having the able assistance of Jacques Martin. That should help with the transition, but there's little doubt DeBoer is going to be his own man and do things his way.

So, Fredi Gonzalez, any advice for the new coach of the Panthers?

"Don't read the paper and don't listen to sports radio,'' Gonzalez said Friday. "Bobby [Cox] gave me that advice and it's true. He'll be alright I think. I knew Barry Trotz when he was coaching the team in Portland and I was with the Sea Dogs. He got his chance with Nashville and he's still there. It's probably been 10 years. I wish him luck and we'll be following them.''

-- Seems like the DeBoer selection was pretty popular, at least with my readers. A whopping 92 percent of our voters have approved the deal. Even the European voters like the move, with all of those votes in the yes category.

-- Was looking at the voting for the Norris Trophy over at James Mirtle's site, and noticed someone -- not this guy -- gave Jassen Cullimore a fifth-place vote. Masterton, maybe. Not Norris. Well, good for him.

June 13, 2008

Peter DeBoer is DeMan in Florida

Deboer Peter DeBoer is now the former coach of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario junior Hockey League. He is now the Panthers new head coach, the 10th in the franchise's short history.

DeBoer flew to Barbados and interviewed with Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk for their vacant job, one that went to Craig Hartsberg.

Now, JM says DeBoer selected the Panthers (thereby snubbing the Sens) and signed a multi-year deal to coach in Florida.

"He was wanted by several organizations and picked ours,'' Martin said. "He likes our people, likes our roster. I was able to come to final agreement with him around noon. It's great for our franchise. Ottawa, LA and other teams were pursing him. This speaks highly for us.''

Of course, Ottawa has a different take on how things went down. According to the Ottawa Sun, Melnyk flew from Barbados to Canada to interview Hartsberg (former coach of the Blackhawks and Ducks who was coaching in juniors as well), with GM Bryan Murray offering the job Thursday night. The Sens made it official on Friday morning, with DeBoer agreeing to coach the Cats "around noon" says JM.

DeBoer wasn't available to us today, but he will on Monday when everyone gathers at The Bank for a formal presser. Good times to come, I'm betting.

Kitchener_2 Am interested in meeting DeBoer, who I've been told by many is a cool dude. Gregory Campbell, who played for DeBoer on two different junior teams, says he "knows how to push all the right buttons,'' adding that DeBoer has a keen eye on how to treat everyone. "He doesn't play favorites,'' said Campbell, who adds that the Panthers want him back and he wants to be back. "We're working on things. It's cool,'' he said.

PS: Today is Peter's 40th birthday. Quite the gift.

DeBoer's Kitchener team won the 2003 Memorial Cup with Campbell, but the Rangers came up short this time around, losing in the finals.

-- As far as assistant coaches go, JM says DeBoer will be able to name his own staff, but will talk to the current guys first. Since all three fellas (Guy Charron, Mike Kitchen and Pierre Groulx) are under contract for next season, wouldn't be surprised to see zero change there next season. Not that there needed to be, mind you.

Steve Spott, DeBoer's assistant in Kitcher and with the Canadian juniors in the past, could find his way south.

-- Stephen Weiss, who played for DeBoer at Plymouth, is apparently a huge fan. Campbell says Weiss is the one who called him to give him the news. "Weisser is fired up,'' Campbell said. "He was a raw, talented player when he went to Plymouth and Pete really got the most out of him. Weisser credits him with a lot of his development.''

-- Campbell also credits DeBoer for the development of Buffalo's Derek Roy, one of those guys who "needed a fire lit under them.''

-- And yes, this hiring was a big surprise. JM never once indicated this was the way he was going to go. Would not play poker against this guy. He never tipped his hand. Not once.

-- On this special occasion, it's Frozen Poll time! As always, love to read comments from y'all, so leave them at the bottom. Thanks.

Search Over?

In St. Pete to cover the Marlins today, but that isn't news.

The Panthers having a new coach is.

We're scheduled to speak with JM around 3 where he's supposed to announce the 10th coach in franchise history.

Stay tuned....

June 11, 2008

Save the Date

OpeningdayHearing the Panthers open the 2008-09 season in Tampa on Friday, Oct. 10.

Florida will open its home campaign the following night, Oct. 11, against a "mystery" team. I've heard Boston, also Atlanta and Carolina. So who knows.

Don't know if this is 100 percent true or not, but throwing it out there for kicks.

If Florida does open on Oct. 11, it may compete with the University of Miami's home game against UCF at Joe Robbie Stadium. A kickoff time for that game has not been announced. Of course if it's a noon kick, you can do both.

The schedule will be announced next month. Also hearing there will only be one preseason game at The Bank this, well, preseason. That probably means eight exhibition games on the road. Good times.

Keep It Coming

VoteThe Should Olli Stay/Should Olli Go poll listed below has in just a few days become the most popular Frozen Poll in On Frozen Pond history!*

Sure, you may say, it's summer and your past polls were a little on the weak side.

But I have a voting fever and I think some of you do too.

As of now, we've taken votes from all over North America -- and not surprisingly, Europe, too. The votes we're getting from Finland say Olli needs to stay; the votes coming from Sweden say he has to go. Again, no surprise there.

Didn't get your vote in? There's still plenty of time. Either scroll down, or simply click here. Right now, about 60 percent say Olli should be traded (47 percent going with "only if the Panthers get a ton.")

-- The other Frozen Poll from this past week has also seen an uptick in interest, the one asking who you want as new coach of the Panthers (with a list of five guys who may or may not be on JM's short list of true candidates).

Anyway, Randy Cunneyworth is leading this tally -- he got the lone vote offered up from Moscow --
with 30 percent of the vote. Paul Maurice (25.5 percent) is second, with Pat Quinn (20) sitting in third.

Again, scroll down to vote, or click this link.

-- Also getting plenty of feedback from folks regarding the $25 surcharge the Panthers plan to tack onto "premium" games this season. For the most part, people replying to me in the comments or in emails completely disagree with me and have no problems with the Panthers doing this. People I talk to on the street think it's crazy. I still don't like the idea of it -- $25 seems a bit harsh -- but understand it.

Figure those 10,000 Montreal fans who pony up the extra $25 are basically buying a ticket to an Ottawa game or an Atlanta game or any of the other 30 games that don't draw down here.

(*) Have only been offering the Frozen Poll since I figured out the technology about six weeks ago...

June 10, 2008

View From the Top

BacPanthers owner Alan Cohen called me this morning, a little upset with my characterization of his hockey organization as greedy.

Cohen made it clear that the ticket hike for premium games was his idea, a plan to try and get fans of other teams to help pay for the Panthers' roster and offset some expenses.

To paraphrase, he says it's hard to make a "money grab" when the team is losing money.

"I have not raised ticket prices and have made sure our games are affordable,'' Cohen said. "But when fans of the Rangers, Canadians, Maple Leafs, whatever, come down here and fill our building, we should get a little more for it. This is being done to protect our ticket holders, our fans. Our fans can call up right now and buy a Fathers' Day package and not pay the extra money. Our tickets are a great deal and people know this.''

Cohen said he understands how some fans may be upset about paying the extra money to see the big-name teams, but adds mini-ticket plans are affordable, and fans can save money by buying those. And, he adds, there are plenty of other games on the schedule in which the extra $25 won't be added to ticket prices.

"We have people coming in here chanting 'Lets Go Rangers,' fans rooting for the Canadiens,'' Cohen said. "Let them pay for it. They are still going to snap up every ticket we have. We could have sold 30,000 tickets [for Montreal] last year.''

And like I wrote in my previous post, many fans of these teams are going to shell out the big bucks and be fine with it. Met a guy in Montreal who paid $700 for a ticket to see the Panthers on a Tuesday night. Guys like that will save money by flying down to Florida and picking up tickets at The Bank.

Your average Joe, however, is the one getting caught. Want to see Sidney Crosby live and in person? Better buy some kind of ticket plan now or you'll pay for it later. Still cheaper than seeing him live in Pittsburgh though.

Trust me, there are a lot of things the Panthers do that I don't much care for, this $25 surcharge being one of them. The constant ads, this game brought to you by Miramar Mike's Exterminating, etc. But I do understand this is how the Panthers feel they can survive in this very un-traditional hockey market.

At least the team is here, looking to continue to put down roots and not pack up moving vans.

Cohen isn't one of the owners calling Canada's Jim Basille seeing if he wants to buy the franchise and move it to Hamilton or Winnipeg or some other market north of Detroit. "We're losing money and I don't complain,'' Cohen said. "I just deal with it and hope it gets better in the future.''

Greed Isn't Good

Gecko The Panthers sent out an e-mail today detailing their new season ticket prices.

Like most professional sports teams, the Panthers added a few more pricing tiers giving them like 1,342 different variations, from Premium Plaza to Sideline Balcony to Sitting Up in the Rafters with George Richards and the Barry Manilow Face.

The team isn't raising prices for many of their season ticket holders, a pretty smart move. Honestly, only the Dolphins get away with raising prices and missing the playoffs every year. OK, guess the Marlins do too.

The big news is that the Panthers are raising single game prices. To a select number of games, the price hike is pretty substantial.

Like the price of premium gas, tickets to 'premium' hockey games in South Florida is skyrocketing. The Panthers plan to add $25 PER SEAT to games they deem 'high demand.' By my estimates, that is probably about five games a year. But, be sure, the Panthers will consider quite a few games 'high demand' whether they are or not.

Want to go to Opening Night but don't want to plunk down the big bucks and commit to a season ticket? Add $25 bucks to your ticket. Want to see the Rangers? The Canadiens? If the Canucks come down, wanna see Louie? Cough up the dough pal.

The Panthers are going to brag about their $9 per game season ticket, but on a game-day to the common fan, the cheapest ticket is $17.

On a 'high demand' game, that $17 ticket jumps all the way to $42.

This is going to go over well I'm sure.

Hey, at least the season ticket holders won't have to fight all those fans at the Cuban Sandwich stands during the 'high demand' games. After shelling out that kind of coin, an $8 cold beverage may be out of the question.

Unless you want to drink away the memory that you paid $42 to sit in the nether reaches of the Big Bank.

The Panthers (Michael Yormark) say this is a way to protect season ticket holders, to make them feel like they are getting a bargain. When the team stops handing out ticket vouchers at places like Quarterdeck like they were giving out mini Snickers to trick-or-treaters, then I'll buy that "protecting season ticket holders" nonsense.

Bac This is a money grab, plain and simple. A good old-fashioned price gouge. Selling that barn out, at these prices, just became a lot harder.

Sure, the folks who come down from Montreal for one game will pay the money (these tickets will still be cheaper than buying them in Quebec thanks to that city's passion for the game and the weak American dollar).

Who gets hosed here?

The common fan who lives in Kendall or North Miami Beach or West Palm Beach and can't honestly commit to a whole season of commuting will pay through the nose. The family of four who would like to catch a game on a Saturday night, only the Penguins are in town and their seats in the upper deck's 'Terrace Level' are almost as much as the monthly payment on their 2004 Dodge Caravan. The college kids who want to see some hockey -- perhaps a fight or two -- and want to make a night of it. But wait. Pay for a credit hour of Economics 201 or buy one 'Mezzanine' seat for $87?

Well, those fans probably won't bother with the Panthers. Not anymore.

Hey, there's always the Miami Heat.

Jack_3 Most don't take well to greedy people in troubled financial times. The Panthers don't look good by jacking up prices of tickets in a rough economic climate.

The Panthers need to rethink this one and let it fade into memory like the plan to charge people $5 to walk onto their property a few years ago.

There's still time.

FYI, here is the new price schedule courtesy of the Panthers.

2008-09 Season Seat Holder Prices & Gate Ticket Costs

Italicized & Bold Indicates New Section for 2008-09 Season



Ticket Locations


Full Season Plan


Half Season Plan




Gate Price


Front Row










Panthers Club










Premium Sidelines 










Premium Plaza Middle










Premium Endzones










Lower Bowl Sidelines










Plaza Middle










Lower Bowl Endzones










Lexus Club




















Sideline Balcony




















Terrace Level











**A $25 premium charge will be added to the gate price for individual tickets purchased for select high demand (A) games. These game will be determined once the NHL schedule is released is mid-July**

June 09, 2008

Are You Jokinen?

OllijokinenThere was a report out there on the Wild Wild Web stating Olli Jokinen was on the verge of being traded.

According to this report, not only has a deal been done, but it could be announced as early as, well, any minute now!

It could have happened while I was watching the Marlins game.

Truth is, Olli Jokinen is still a member of the Panthers, and probably will be for at least a few more days. If not a week. Or two.

Heck, he may even be around for another month. Or two. Or five or six. You get the picture yet?

People I've spoken to within the organization say no trade involving Jokinen is forthcoming, although there is plenty of interest in the 29-year-old centerman.

A lot of people want to pry Jokinen away from the Panthers -- and for good reason. The guy is not only durable (hasn't missed a game since 2002) but has averaged over a point a game the past three seasons (1.02).

Pardon my grammar, but there ain't too many cats -- especially Cats -- who can put up those kind of offensive numbers.

And his contract numbers are equally impressive. Olli's getting a touch over $5 mil ($5.25 this coming season, $5.5 in 2009-10) over the next two signed seasons. That makes him real bargain, even in Florida.

That said, I do think the Panthers and Jokinen will probably part ways in the coming weeks. I don't think Olli and JM like each other very much, and if JM was still the coach, Olli would probably have found himself somewhere else.

But know this: JM is not going to trade Olli away out of spite, is not going to settle on a deal just to make the deal. Certain other GMs of this franchise may have made up their mind to trade a fella, then made sure that was done.

JM is not that kind of a GM.

Jacques Martin is patient to a fault, and is not going to be rushed into making a major deal like this without doing due diligence. Say what you want about the Chad Kilger deal -- and that was rushed -- but it was minor in scope. JM has had a long time to think about this one and knows what he wants in return.

If the Panthers swing a deal for Jokinen, expect an impact player coming back in return, with a depth guy and a first round draft pick as well. There's talk there might be a three-team deal cooking, but who knows. These rumors are always on the grill about this time, and 95 percent of the time they never see the light of day.

There have been few Panthers who have been part of trade rumors more than Jokinen, who was rumored to be on the way out about the time he was negotiating a four-year deal at the 2006 trade deadline.

Just remember this: The Panthers don't have to trade Olli. A number of people in the organization don't want to trade Olli. And JM won't trade Olli unless the deal is right, at least in his eyes, for the Florida Panthers and their ability to make a playoff run this coming season.

We may just see No. 12 back with the Sunrise Six in the fall.

Then we can start up the trade rumors all over again come February.

And now, BONUS Frozen Poll....vote early and often. Let G know how you feel about this hot button issue.

June 08, 2008

Done With This Guy

VinnyTSN in Canada is reporting that former Sharks coach Ron Wilson is indeed going to take the Maple Leafs gig, agreeing to a four-year deal to coach in the Centre of the Hockey Universe.

Don't know how much interest the Panthers had in Wilson -- or, more importantly, Wilson's interest in the Panthers -- but that is certainly moot now.

According to the TSN report, interim GM Cliff Fletcher said the two sides are close and had reached a verbal agreement, although "it is not on paper.''

JM told me, and other members of the South Florida media, that the Panthers' search was going to intensify this coming week.

Could be interesting, especially if something leaks out this week.

We shall see.

JM said he has narrowed his coaching candidates to four, and while he wouldn't confirm any of them -- other than saying he has spoken to Paul Maurice and has permission to speak with Perry Pearn -- I'm going to speculate who the four are.

Today's Frozen Poll asks who you would like to see coach the Panthers out of this bunch. Even though JM questioned where we all got Andre Savard as a candidate, I think where there's some smoke, there's fire and am putting him down as Candidate No. 5.

As always, comments are welcomed.

PS: On our last Frozen Poll, the question was whether the Panthers should hire the recently fired John Tortorella. A whopping 70 percent of you said yes. Was a little surprised with that one. But I don't see it happening for various -- and many obvious -- reasons.

Also, with Torts perhaps going to San Jose, that would leave Joel Quenneville available for the Panthers. So he's still in play.

June 05, 2008

Coaching Update

Spoke with JM today at The Bank, got a little bit of news from him regarding the coaching search -- among other things.

First off, the Panthers have asked for and been granted permission to speak to Paul Maurice (Toronto) and Perry Pearn (Rangers assistant). Martin has already had a conversation with Maurice, done when JM was at the team's development camp outside of Toronto.

"I've talked to Paul when I was there,'' he said. "I just had a meeting with him. It was a good meeting, but there are a couple more people I want to talk to.

"I don't have a timetable yet, but I'd like to pick up the pace in the coming week.''

We spoke a little bit about Andre Savard, with JM saying the two are friends. As far as him coming south to the Florida, I don't think it's going to be as coach. Jacques said Savard is very good in the scouting department and some reports I've seen imply that Savard wants to get back in the front office and back from behind the bench.

When asked if he was going to ask the Penguins for permission to speak to Savard, Martin said he probably would not -- although he would probably speak to him anyway. "We're friends, yeah,'' Martin said.

-- JM says he doesn't have a problem not having a coach in place by the draft. "They don't have anything to do with it,'' he said. But, if things fall into place, someone could have the gig before the month is up.

-- JM says he has spoken with Jay Bouwmeester's agent, but there has been no progress in talks for a contract. He says he expects talks to continue. When I asked him if he could foresee trading Bouwmeester at the draft if something isn't reached, he said "I would doubt that. We're not at that stage yet. We're at the begining stages of the negotiations.''

June 04, 2008

Hockey's Over

And that sucks.

See you in Calgary come September.

Spell Check

It's Zetterberg, by the way...Hard to type on the Treo after golfing all week...

Whata Wings Win

Detroit wins the Cup, Henrik Zeterberg taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP.

Great series, great teams.

Gots to give Detroit props for bouncing back and winning on the road.

Just like they have this entire postseason.

I like the Penguins, really love this Wings team.

They are more than a deserved champion. See you at the Ren Center for the parade...

June 03, 2008

The Tortorella Era Over in Tampa

Torts2John Tortorella, here seen trying to make the University of Miami 'U' with his hands, is done as coach of the Lightning.

The team confirmed today that Torts will not coach the Lightning anymore. Word is, once the Lightning's new ownership is handed the keys to the franchise later this month, ESPN analyst and former LA Kings coach Barry Melrose will take over behind the bench.

Tortorella has one year left on his contract, so he's getting paid regardless. Any team that would like to talk to Tortorella -- hey, Jacques! -- would have to get permission from the Lightning. Don't know if that would be granted to Florida since the two share a division, although that is pure speculation on my part.

Here's what Jay Feaster had to say in a statement:

“This has been a very difficult decision because of everything that John Tortorella has meant to and done for this organization,” Feaster said. “Torts came to Tampa and not only built the foundation under our club but he also changed the culture and raised the expectations, eventually leading us to the Stanley Cup in 2004. What he accomplished during his tenure in Tampa was nothing short of remarkable and our organization will always owe him our thanks, gratitude and deep respect.

“At the same time, we need to look to the future of the both the club and the organization, and we must make decisions with the future in mind. John was entering the final year of his contract and extending his contract was not a viable option. Having him enter and coach the season in a lame duck status was not something I was prepared to recommend to ownership.

“John Tortorella is a very good hockey coach and an even better person. By making this decision now, both the existing and incoming ownership groups are attempting to give John every opportunity to pursue the numerous head coaching vacancies that exist throughout the League. We thank John for his many years of loyal and dedicated service to our franchise and our community and we wish him and his family every continued personal and professional success.”


June 02, 2008

Instant Classic from Hockeytown

What a game we have going on in Detroit tonight. Wings rally from a 2-0 deficit, dominate play in the third to take a 3-2 lead.

In the waning seconds with Pittsburgh's season on the line, Maxime Talbot scores to tie it and send things into overtime.

If you are watching this game and say you don't like hockey, well, hockey doesn't need you.

This is as good as it gets.

This, folks, is playoff hockey.

Time to Crown a Wing?

WingsbannerThere's still a game to be won, but there's a feeling here we're going to see a new Stanley Cup champion crowned in Detroit tonight.

With a win over Pittsburgh tonight, the great city of Detroit will celebrate a Cup champion, the Red Wings' 11th.

Not trying to jinx Detroit, not trying to get too far ahead. This Pittsburgh team is too talented and too good to do that. But the Wings are focused, fired up and ready to go.

Party at Sunrise Quarterdeck tonight, with most of the televisions tuned to the Stanley Cup Final (the others will have the Marlins, FSU baseball and I'm requesting the Indians/Rangers).

Despite all the distractions, I'll be watching the hockey game, one I would bet is the final game of the 2007-08 season.

Where does the time go?

-- If Detroit were to win, who do you like as Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP? Detroit has some great candidates, from Henrik Zetterberg to Johan Franzen to Chris Osgood.

It's Frozen Poll time, AKA Alcoa's You Make the Call (comments always welcomed below)....