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48 posts from September 2008

September 20, 2008

LIVE! Scrimmage

Scrimmage First scrimmage of the season here at Incredible Ice in Coral Springs. It's Saturday, and it's time for hockey.

Blue vs. White; Nathan Horton centering the first White line, Rostislav Olesz and Cory Stillman on the wings; Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton behind.

For the blue, it's Stephen Weiss-David Booth-Richard Zednik with Jassen Cullimore and Jay Bouwmeester. Tomas Vokoun in net for the White, Craig Anderson the Blue.

-- Tanner Glass gives the White a 1-0 lead...

-- Zednik just boarded...he's wearing a neck protector...

--Ballard looks good; just skated the puck out of his zone, nice pass to Horton who fed to Olesz...nice save by Andy...Lot of puck movement...digging it...

-- Drew Larman and Ballard mixing it up a bit...

-- Bryan Allen is now on the ice, working out on the second rink. Wade Belak (shoulder) also held out of the scrimmage, working on Ice 2.

-- White now leads 2-0; Brady Calla with the goal, 3:45 left in the first...


--Tyler Plante in net for the Blue, Chris Beckford-Tseu for the White...

--Michal Repik just puts one off the post...

-- Kenndal "Toyota" McArdle comes close to scoring; but Plante makes a nice save on the loose puck...

-- Frolik goes flying into the net, takes out Beckford-Tseu...

-- McArdle hard into the net...still no score in the second half...

-- And that's that...no scoring in the final 30 minutes of play. Panther fans should hope this is not a indication of what's ahead. Your final: White 2, Blue 0.

LIVE! From Coral Springs

RegiskellyIt's 9 o'clock on a Saturday and the regular crowd has shuffled in.

Billy Lindsey is sitting next to me, I'm drinking a Diet Coke, not gin.

With many apologies to Billy Joel, it's Hockey Day in South Florida, the start of Florida Panthers' training camp just a few minutes away. Coming to you from the Breakaway Grill on the second floor of Incredible Ice, folks milling around below me checking out the Panthers gear for sale.

Nothing happened so far, and the ice still needs to be resurfaced before the Cats take to it.

But we're here, ready to get this season started.

-- Reminder: Jonathan Zaslow and Randy Moller are currently live on 790 The Ticket; I'll be joining them here momentarily.

-- And yes, Billy Lindsey is here about to take on my Miami Herald crossword.

-- It's 9:30 and the first bunch of Panthers have taken the ice. First guys out: Rostislav Olesz, Michael Frolik, Shawn Matthias.

--We've got bagels!

-- Goldie's here. Brian Goldman and Justin Copertino too..

-- It's 9:56 and Peter DeBoer has gathered his team, drawing up some plays on the board. If you're on time, you're late. CAMP ON...

--OK, something is up with Bryan Allen.

He's not out here today, and he hasn't been skating with the group in the past couple of weeks. Word yesterday was, after his physical, he was sent to Incredible Ice to do some skating. So, it could be something as simple as a groin injury slowing him.

EDIT: Jassen Cullimore is here, working on the second rink.

-- It's 10:50 and you haven't missed a whole bunch. Lot of skating, some shooting. Pete DeB seems to be fairly animated when players appear to be loafing, saw him barking at a number of players and banging his stick on the ice.

-- Wade Belak and his surgically repaired shoulder look OK; will see what kind of action he gets in during the upcoming scrimmage. Zamboni is on the ice getting things ready, will be back with scrimmage news.


-- While we're waiting, here is today's stories on the Panthers courtesy of your Miami Herald.

First, here's David J. Neal's column on the Panthers needing more actions and less words. And before you ask, Fibber McGee was an old-time radio show. And this is my notebook, leading with Nathan Horton.

September 19, 2008

Training Camp Primer

Summerpractice The Panthers kick off their 2008-09 season Saturday morning at Incredible Ice in Coral Springs.

The opening practice kicks off at 10 a.m., with a scrimmage an hour later. Players will then go across the street for an off-ice workout, so if you're planning on waiting for autographs, bring something cold to drink. It's going to be a while.

Parking is also going to be at a premium, with a big portion of the lots now fenced off as construction is gearing up for the expansion of the facility. They are adding not only a Map third sheet of ice, but offices, training and dressing rooms and workout rooms for the Panthers. This will become the new home of the Panthers during the season and during the offseason.

Parking should be available across Sample Road at the Industrial Park, and you may be able to park at the school as well. But don't take this as gospel, just give 'er a shot tomorrow.

-- Don't forget to bring some money with you, the Panthers will be holding an equipment sale at the rink. Picked up some sweet skates (thanks Peter Worrell) for like $50 at the last one. Sure they'll have a bunch of good stuff on sale this time as well.

-- Also, Randy Moller and Jon Zaslow will be broadcasting live from Incredible Ice tomorrow morning from 9-10 on 790 The Ticket. Goldie will be there as well, but he won't be on the broadcast since he's now back at 560 WQAM.

-- Here's my training camp preview in today's Miami Herald.

Here's the preseason schedule:


Saturday at Incredible Ice, Coral Springs: practice, 10 a.m.; scrimmage, 11.

Sunday at Incredible Ice, Coral Springs: practice, 10 a.m.; scrimmage, 11.

Monday at Incredible Ice, Coral Springs: practice, 8 a.m.

Tuesday-Sunday, Sept. 28 in Canada.

Key Dates:

Tuesday: Preseason game at Calgary, 9; Wednesday: Preseason game at Edmonton, 9; Thursday: Preseason game at Edmonton, 9; Friday: Preseason game at Calgary, 9; Saturday: Preseason game at Prince Edward Island vs. New York Islanders, 7; Sunday: Preseason game at Montreal, 7.

Incredible Ice is located on Sample Road, 1 mile east of the Sawgrass Expressway in Coral Springs. Admission to Panthers workouts are free to the public, although because of construction on the facility, parking is extremely limited.

Distraction? What Distraction?

Bo_2 To a man, the Panthers say Jay Bouwmeester and his contractual status with the Panthers will not be a problem nor a distraction this season.

When asked if his contract would be a distraction, DeBoer joked: "What contract situation.''

Added DeBoer:  "The way I look at it is this: He's a premier defenseman and we love him. We'd love to keep him here in Florida. From Jay's perspective, whether he's going to play in Florida long-term or go somewhere else, he's going to need a great year in order to set himself up for where he wants to go. The only thing I can control is I know I've got him for the season here and with that motivation, I think we'll have a great season from him.''

Both Bryan McCabe and Keith Ballard both said Jay's contract status is something that will not affect the team, and Ballard said the status of Bouwmeester had nothing to do with his decision to sign a six-year deal with the Cats last week.

"He's one of the best young D in the league,'' McCabe said. "Obviously one of the best skating defensemen in the league. He's got some wheels on him. I got to skate with him at the Olympics, got to room with him as well. He's a great kid. He's already an All-Star at 25. He's going to have a great career.

"[Contract] stuff doesn't concern us. That stuff will work itself out. Winning cures everything. If we can get off to a good start, make the playoffs, I'm sure Jay will make a decision that's best for him. But that stuff doesn't concern us in the locker room.''

Said Jacques Martin: "Look around the league and you see a lot of players playing out the last year of their contract. I think we got Jay signed for a year, and we can't sign him until after January 1. So it's not a distraction. Jay is on board to give us a good season, and we're looking for him to play the best hockey he ever has.''


-- Ducks tell Mathieu Schneider not to bother coming to physicals. Smells like the Duckies have a deal in place.

-- Pierre LeBrun says the Sabres are on the rebound.

-- Speaking of Buffalo, former Sabre Matthew Barnaby is being hired by ESPN to replace Barry Melrose.

-- I don't think Larry Brooks is a big fan of Nikolai Zherdev, do you?

-- Rich Hammond says Patrick O'Sullivan has been asked by the Kings to not report until they can work out a new contract. OK then.

-- Puck Daddy takes a look at your New York Islanders.

-- Mike Russo on Jacques Lemaire returning to the Wild of Minnesota.

-- Some guy named George Richards looks at the start of Florida Panthers training camp somewhere down in Florida. 

Center of Attention -- With Tons of Quotes

NatehortonAs we speculated this summer, it appears Nathan Horton will be moving to center at least on a tryout basis on Saturday.

That means those Sunrise Express (should have been Sawgrass Express IMHO) T-shirts you all bought last season will be collector's items.

Peter DeBoer floated the idea of moving Horton back to his natural position this summer when I met up with him in Kitchener, and at media day on Friday, said he was willing to try a number of different things. Horton moving from right wing to the pivot is one of them.

"We're going to look at all kinds of different options to try and get the best out of our team,'' DeBoer said. "I'm not married to any combinations or guys set at any positions.

"I wanted to come into this training camp with a clean slate for all the players. I don't want anyone to be dragging any baggage from the past into this camp. I don't want to be tainted by 'this guy only plays here.' We want to make sure we're a tough team to play against every night. To me, that means four lines playing with energy and competing and chipping in points every night. If that means moving some guys around, well, we're going to do that.''

Said Horton: "I haven't played [center] since junior, but it's a lot more fun when you can move around and go anywhere on the ice. You can help out more, have more responsibility. I think it'll be fun, but who knows what will happen. We'll see tomorrow, I guess.''

When asked if he welcomed the move, Horton sounded like he was cool with it. "Anyone would be,'' he said. "It's more responsibility and it gets you into the game a little more. You can go different places than you can at the wing.''

Added DeBoer: "I've had conversations with Nathan about it. He was a dominant centerman in junior, went head-to-head with [Eric] Staal night in and night out in junior. He usually came out on top. I've had that conversation with him. All the guys have the attitude that they're going to do what they have to do to find some success here as a team.''

Said JM: "You need a big center, and he fits the bill.''

Added Stephen Weiss: "He's such a good player, he can play anywhere you need him to. He's played center before, so it might take him a few games to get used to it, but he'll be fine.''

Said David Booth: "He's a great player and can play anywhere. Just a great athlete. Things change during the course of a year and you never know what's going to happen. We have a lot of good players, players who can play anywhere.''

Other notes from Friday's meet and greet:


-- On playing well from the start : "The starts here the past couple of years have been a concern. We all know how important it is to get off to a good start and get headed in the right direction.''

-- On his vision: "My concern is making us the hardest working team in the league. We want to play the right way, be a tough team to play against. If we play that way, success is going to come.''

-- On meeting his new players: "I think I have a feel for all the guys. I haven't had a chance to sit down and meet with everyone, but we're going on the road for quite a while here so I can sit with everyone through that span. The feedback is excitement. These guys are excited to be back. Anytime you miss the playoffs it's a long summer. As much as hockey players enjoy their summer, four or five months is too long. I think everyone would be happy with just two or three.

"They're excited about our direction, excited about the new players in the room. And so are we.''

-- Bringing in his style: "Players want honest and they want straightforwardness. They'll see early what I expect, what we want. They're going to get to buy into that early. There won't be an issue.''

-- Expectations: "We have a captive audience here. There isn't one guy who has been here in this organization who has played in the playoffs in seven years. .-.-. These guys want to be playing playoff hockey, want the direction that's going to take them to success at that time of year. We have to lay that foundation in training camp.''

-- On the new captain: "It's a topic of conversation, although it hasn't been that big a topic with the coaching staff that people out there may believe. We have so many other things to focus on right now. I now there is leadership in that room, I know there's depth of leadership in that room. If anything, there's going to be a group of guys not wearing a letter that probably could be.

"As far as the 'C' and 'As' go, we haven't had that conversation in any detail. I really wanted to come into camp with an open mind and let the chips sort themselves out. Usually those things become pretty clear pretty quickly. If they don't, well, I'm not in any rush. This is important decision for this franchise and we want to make sure we get the right guy.''

-- Younger players fitting in: "That's up to them. I've never been a coach who cut or kept players because of their age or experience. We want to win every night and if I feel Frolik or Matthias or any of the young guys can step in and help us win on night one of the season, they'll be in the lineup night one. If I don't think they can, they won't be.

"I'm not going to make those decisions based on age or experience. It's because I've found in the past that there are young guys who are ahead of the curve and can step right in. Some guys you think could, really couldn't. We'll see how it shakes out.''


-- On setting the right tempo: "It all starts tomorrow. Everyone is going come in and work hard. I think that's the main thing, getting it right from the start. Whatever happens in practice carries over into the games. We've talked about [digging a hole] a lot. We definitely need a good start. It's not easy when you fall behind from the beginning. It's a long season, but those wins count just as much as the ones at the end of the season.''

-- On not having Olli around: "Obviously he was my friend. He was a team leader and it'll be different. But the guys we brought in have leadership, guys like Stillman and McCabe and the list goes on. It''s exciting for me, I think it'll be exciting for everyone.''

-- Doing more: "I need to do more. The big thing is not taking nights off, and that comes from working. Practice means a lot and I'm going to do my best there. That should carry over. The nights we take off are the points we need at the end.''

-- Did leadership need to change?: "I think something needed to change. We have great guys here who are older guys and leaders. We have a good mix. We're all getting along, have been skating together for  a month. It's been fun, and tomorrow is where it all starts.''

-- Fresh start with Pete: "I'm excited to play for him, and I think if you talk to a lot of guys, they are too. He knows a lot about the game and he'll be good for the Panthers and for everyone's career. He knows a lot and has a lot to teach.''


-- On cleaning house: "No matter where you're at, you're going to have ups and downs. I think we improved the character of our club so we can deal with situations, deal with times of frustrations and adversity better than we have in the past.''

-- On goals: "We have a nucleus of players who can take us to the playoffs. .-.-. Our goaltending is strong enough to make us a playoff team. Our defense now, I really believe it's good enough to make us a playoff team. Up front, we're still very young, but I think we have people who will produce. When I look at our roster, I see seven guys who could be 20 goal scorers if they stay healthy. We could get more production from the backend. It's going to take a lot of work, but we have better depth than we've had before and we still may need to add some dimension.''

-- Training camp: "We're going to have some great battles between the young kids. Matthias, Frolik, Repik for instance. Then you have another wave of guys like Stewart, Sprukts, Meyer, Glass. those could be players who earn a spot on our team. We have more compition within the team.'' 

-- On lines: "The good thing is, that's not my decision anymore.''

-- Expectations: "Don't single out Nathan. We're expecting more from a lot of people. People like Stephen Weiss, Rostislav Olesz, David Booth, Brett McLean. We signed Cory Stillman, Richard Zednik. There's probably seven individuals who could score 20 goals or more. I think it's time for those players to take a step forward.

-- Zednik moving forward: "Richard handled it very well. He had a lot of time to recover, and I think he's anxious to come back and start competing. When he got hurt, he was at the best -- with us, anyway. Hopefully he can regain that form quickly and help us win hockey games.''

-- How tough to make Panthers: "As a player, there's injuries and there are trades. If someone steps up and shows he deserves to play at this level, I'm sure we'll find the room.''

-- Jassen Cullimore coming back: "If you remember last year, we had eight defensemen at training camp, and by November, we had to reach out and sign Jassen. Sometime you don't have enough defensemen. We like Jassen, felt he performed well for us last year. Who knows what can happen in training camp. He's going to get a chance to prove to the new coach where he fits in. Hopefully after camp we have a contract for him.''


-- On returning from injury: "It's tough when you can't shoot the puck, that's one of your bread-and-butter things. There are other aspects you can work on, and I hope to contribute offensively. That's why they brought me out here. I'm going to put the puck in the net this year.''

-- Getting started: "I'm really excited, I get a fresh start here. New coach, lot of new teammates. I'm looking forward to helping out this club.''


-- On skating with his new teammates the past few weeks: "It's good to get guys in here early, that way you can feel comfortable together before camp starts. I think it's important to start building some chemistry. Look at Cory Stillman. We've been together a few weeks already. I haven't played in a game with him, but I feel like I know him a little bit. There's a comfort level there.

"When we're all sucking wind and bent over in the first practice, it'll help to know one another. It helps you learn one another.''


-- On the new Panthers: "I think we do need a fresh start around here. We haven't made the playoffs in eight years, and that's something we need to do down here. If we do it, we can get the fan base going. And we can do it. We can make a charge for the Stanley Cup. We have to keep talking about the Stanley Cup. That has to be a goal. That's why you play the game, to win. We have to talk about that every day.''

-- Quick start: "Come March and April, you find yourself looking back at games lost saying 'we had a two-goal lead.' We have to do that starting Oct. 10. We have to get going right now. We've seen how hard the guys have worked in the offseason, we just have to be ready to go from the start. We have to finish off teams, and when we're down, we have to fight to the finish.''

-- More on the new look: "I think we have a good team. The changes we made were good. There's definitely going to be a good vibe in the locker room, and everyone is on the same page right now. No one is better than anyone else. You have to prove yourself in training camp.''

-- Chemistry on the Sunrise Express: "It takes time to develop. That was fun. But those guys are great players and they're going to find success with whomever they play. They make the other players better. If we can get two or three lines going every night, producing -- even four lines -- that will help our team.''

September 18, 2008

Cullimore Is Back

CullimoreJust got word from the Panthers than Jassen Cullimore has accepted an invitation by the team to attend training camp on a professional try out.

Cullimore had a solid season for the Panthers last season after attending Detroit camp on a try-out basis. Cullimore was said to be asking for a salary in the $2 million range after last season's success, but apparently hasn't found anything to his liking.

This is a no-lose deal for the Panthers who have more than enough d-men as it is, although if injuries creep up -- or Jasen looks really, really good -- he could stick.

More than likely, this is Florida's way of thanking Cully for last year. He was a solid pickup by JM, and a tryout with the Cats gives him a chance to show other teams he can play. Last year, Cullimore sure showed he could still bring it. His three goals and 13 points were most since he was across the state with the Bolts in 2000-01 and plus-21 was best on the team.

-- Don't forget to vote for your favorite Panthers of all-time. Only a couple of more weeks to go until these polls close. Vote right here.

-- Different story here: The Big Bank will be hosting the National Lacrosse League on Jan. 3 when the Toronto Rock take on the New York SomethingOrOthers. How about some arena football? That could work down here. Lax? Not so much. If I wasn't covering the Panthers and out of town, I would probably show up and check it out. Have seen it on TV. Not bad.

Press conference next week at the Bank. Again, sorry I cannot attend.

Almost Party Time

PartyTraining camp is now officially "around the corner,'' the Panthers holding media day on Friday at the Big Bank, the first practice coming on Saturday morning in Coral Springs.

It's been a long, hot, summer here in South Florida, and with the Panthers out of the playoffs again, it's been a long offseason. One that's about to end.

And it couldn't happen soon enough.


-- Less than a week after the season ends with a loss at Washington (one in which the Caps clinch the Southeast thanks to the Panthers knocking out Carolina the night before), owner Alan Cohen tells me JM will not return as coach but is welcome to come back as general manager.

-- After mulling it over for a couple of days, JM announces he will indeed come back as GM. He gets a new contract.

-- The Panthers coaching search takes some time, but finally ends when Peter DeBoer signs on and becomes the 10th coach in franchise history.

-- At the draft in Ottawa -- err, Kanata -- the Panthers move captain Olli Jokinen to Phoenix in exchange for a draft pick, and d-men Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton.

-- On the first day of free agency, the Panthers sing forward Cory Stillman, he of two Stanley Cup championships.

-- In August, word surfaces that Toronto is looking to move Bryan McCabe. Weeks later -- after B-Mac gets paid by the Leafs -- the trade goes down. Florida gets McCabe and a draft pick, the Leafs get Mike Van Ryn.

-- Other things that have gone down: Gregory Campbell gets a two-year deal, Ballard signs for six. Rostislav Olesz also gets a six-year deal. Jozef Stumpel is bought out, and Branislav Mezei isn't tendered a new deal (both sign with the same team in the KHL). Steve Montador leaves Panthers for the Ducks.

And that's the offseason in one quick nutshell. Probably missed something since I'm watching reruns of 'Always Sunny in Philadelphia while I write this. But it's pretty close.


-- Big shock in Tampa: Vinny Lecavalier is the new captain of the Bolts.

-- Carolina setback: Justin Williams out four to six months.

-- Looks like Luc Robitaille got ripped off by Boots.

-- Darren McCarty gets a one-year deal from the Red Wings.

-- Lots of questions as training camps open throughout the league. The Edmonton Journal takes a look at them.

September 17, 2008

Dishing it Out

IcecreamA couple of Florida Panthers were scooping out ice cream in Weston on Tuesday night, Noah Welch and David Booth getting into the fun at Coldstone by creating their own concoctions while hamming it up for the fans who kept wandering in.

Stanley C. Panther was there as well, creating havoc as usual.

As you can guess, slow news day.

Only a few more days 'til hockey.

-- The Panthers are on the list to have a game broadcast by NBC this season. Of course, the Peacock is more interested in the Penguin. That sounded gross.


-- The NHL's Board of Governors didn't even talk about expansion at their meeting on Tuesday. That doesn't mean that putting a team in Las Vegas by the time its new arena (plans to) opens in 2010 isn't a hot topic within the league.

-- Enjoy the 2010 Vancouver Olympics; might be the last time we have NHL guys going for Gold.

-- Will Mathieu Schnieder end up with the Kings. Maybe.

-- A couple of New York Rangers are looking for fresh starts with the Blueshirts this season.

-- Give it up to Eric Lindros, former Flyer/Star/Leaf/Ranger, donating $5 million to the London, Ont., Health Sciences Center.

September 16, 2008

The Gang's All Here -- Almost

OurgangGood morning for hockey at Incredible Ice, pretty much the entire 2008-09 Panthers on hand. Well, except for the young kids who just finished rookie camp in Kitchner and Bryan Allen.

So, yes, that means a lot of the guys who haven't been around of late are here now. Jay Bouwmeester, Keith Ballard, David Booth, Rostislav Olesz, et al.

The guys did a lot of hard skating today, lot of full-speed passing work and the like. Training camp will be here in just a few days, kicking off Saturday morning at 10. Going to be a mess at Incredible Ice what with the pre-construction stuff going on, so that means a lot less parking than before. And it wasn't always easy to find parking there on the weekends as it was.

With training camp around the corner, that must mean the season is close at hand as well.

Unless you check the countdown clock at floridapanthers.com. According to them, Opening Night is 106 days away.

-- EDIT: Fixed on the Panthers site. Less than a month to go. Whew. I already booked my flight to Carolina, and according to USAir, I'm leaving on October 9.

Apparently the offseason just got a bit longer.

-- Ballard will be wearing No. 2 this season. Top Panthers to wear this number in the past: Branislav Mezei, Lukas Krajicek, Lyle Odelein, Terry Carkner and Joe Cirella.

Nick Boynton's number on the Panthers official roster is 44 (although I think he was wearing No. 70 on his helmet today). Last to wear that one: Todd Bertuzzi. Rob Niedermayer, Sandis Ozolinsh and Soup Campbell. Noah Welch has switched to No. 7 now that Steve Montador has moved on to Anaheim.

-- Speaking of Welch, he'll be dishing out the cold stuff at Coldstone Creamery in Weston tonight with Goldie. Welch's super secret concoction? Banana ice cream with Oreos. May have to check that out.

September 15, 2008

Polls Open -- Again

Polls It's been about a month since I started a poll to find out the most popular Florida Panthers of all time. If you recall, the vote started with 10 players – the top three Panthers named on Opening Night come Oct. 11.

As it stands now, Roberto Luongo, John Vanbiesbrouck and Pavel Bure are running away with the honors. As promised, we're going to drop the bottom three players and add three more.

The total votes from our new vote will be added to our old vote, so, yes, the new guys have to get a ton of votes to catch up.

I honestly don't see anyone catching the top three right now, but you never now. There's less than a month left to vote which means hockey season is less than a month away.

Here are the three players being dropped off the poll: Robert Svehla (one of the top defensemen the Panthers have had and a record holder in just about every defensive category), Rob Niedermayer (who has made a name for himself elsewhere) and Brian Skrudland (the Panthers' first captain).

Here are the new additions -- Viktor Kozlov: Currently with the Capitals, Kozlov is third in Panthers scoring with 101 goals and 291 points in 414 games. Bill Lindsay: Currently the Panthers radio analyst, Billy played in 506 games with the Panthers, scoring 67 goals – the biggest one coming against the Bruins in the 1996 playoffs. Ray Whitney: Currently with Carolina, Ray appeared in 273 games with Florida, scoring 97 goals with 130 assists.

As always, vote 'til you drop. And be sure to leave your comments below on your favorite Panthers and your thoughts on the new guys on this list.


September 13, 2008

A Fresh Begining

MatthiasThe Panthers kicked off the 2008-09 season Saturday in Kitchner, Ontario, with the Florida rookies dropping a 4-2 decision to Ottawa at the Kitchner Auditorium.

Adam Comrie and Shawn Matthias (pictured) both scored for the Cats; Tyler Plante made 21 saves. Florida continues its rookie tournament Sunday at 2 against the Baby Penguins.


-- Puck Daddy's take on your Florida Panthers.

-- The Hockey News thinks this is a make-or-break year for Stephen Weiss.

-- Eric Duhatschek says there are a lot of compelling storylines this coming season.

-- Ray Slover at the Sporting News says the NHL needs to fix its current state of affairs before expanding into Europe.

September 12, 2008

Change of Plans

MarlinsfirstpitchWord on the street is that Panthers forward Nathan Horton will not be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Marlins-Nationals game at Miami Gardens/Joe Robbie Stadium come Saturday night.

Instead, that honor is going to newly acquired defenseman Keith Ballard. My peeps tell me Keith is arriving in South Florida on Friday, then will be on hand wearing -- what I can only assume is -- a custom Marlins jersey to open up a game in which very few baseball fans could honestly be interested in.

I enjoy the Marlins as much as anyone else, but, seriously, the Nats? The Marlins might as well call their Triple-A team in Albuquerque to play a few games instead.

At least the USC-Ohio State game will be on televisions inside the stadium for people to enjoy.

-- Joking aside, I think it's cool the Marlins and Panthers have become kind of pseudo partners in helping each other out. Truth is, I think the different pro teams down here should help each other out. They should be fans of one another. I think fans get a kick out of seeing Panthers at a Marlins game, just like they cheer when they see Dolphins players (OK, Dan Marino) or Dontrelle Willis courtside at the Heat games.

We're all from South Florida, kids. Let's act like it.

Blackhawks_2 -- Speaking of that, the White Sox held a Blackhawks night Wednesday night on the south side, and by all accounts, it was a smashing hit. Chicago winger Patrick Sharp was going to toss out the ceremonial first pitch, but then grabbed a stick and gave the old horsehide a slap shot to the backstop. That, friends, is cool.


-- Bleacher Report previews some team from Florida called the 'Panthers.' Enjoy. Or not.

-- More on Richard Zednik, this from our good friends at the Associated Press.

-- Tampa Bay summer update No. 2,433: Vinny LeCavalier may miss four preseason games.

Miamiacc -- The ACC is undergoing major renovations. I don't think they're talking about Miami, North Carolina or Wake Forest.

Slugs2 Slugs -- The Sabres' old-school third jersey has been confirmed. This one doesn't look anything like the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.

-- Digging the Columbus Blue Jackets? You -- and Jim Tressel -- aren't alone.

Craig Custance of the Sporting News, yes a longtime FOOFP, says he's a fan of the Ohio Capitals as well.

-- The NHLPA is going to court regarding pensions.

Golf -- Playing golf with Brian Y today. Hope to beat him. But that don't matter. He had a good take on the different paths the Panthers and Lightning have taken this offseason.

Hey, linking this has to get me at least one extra mulligan, right?

September 11, 2008

Day to Remember


Today is September 11, 2008, the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

September 11 is a day that will always “live in infamy” for me, although I would never trivialize the attack on Pearl Harbor in which those words were originally put to use so forcefully in 1941.

That said, today is a day in which I reflect on the innocent men and women who lost their lives seven years ago. For those who died just by going to work that cursed morning; for those Heroes who died trying to rescue their fellow man.

And for those Heroes who diverted a hijacked airliner and kept United flight 93 from doing even more damage and inflicting even more pain. Instead, those people died in what was an empty field in Pennsylvania, their jet coming nowhere near an intended target. If it had, we would be likely mourning many more deaths.

I spent the morning at Incredible Ice today to watch the Panthers do their informal workouts. Not much to report today. I hope you join me in in realizing what's truly important this day, if only for a minute or two.

Let us never forget what happened that September morning.


-- Eric Staal is getting paid by Carolina, the talented winger getting a seven year deal worth close to $60 million starting in 2009-10. The thought here is that Jay Bouwmeester is going to be looking for this kind of money come Jan. 1.

-- The Calgary Flames -- including Mike Keenan -- hit the streets yesterday delivering tickets to season seat holders. The Penguins did this as well.

-- Speaking of the Flames, Marcus Nilson may be headed to Russia this season.

-- Speaking of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby has decided to live with the Lemieux family again this season.

-- The Kings figured the Price was Right with Drew Carey.

-- Patrick Roy's No. 33 heading to the rafters in Montreal.

September 10, 2008

Glory Days


Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals now on XM 204. Good times, long time ago.

For those youngsters who enjoy reading this site, the Stanley Cup was actually inside the Dade County line for a time, and it was awarded to the Quebec Nordiques after they swept the Panthers in four games.

The Avalanche, in its first season in Denver after moving from Quebec City, had quite the team that year. Superstar Patrick Roy saved the Avs bacon time and again, only it was Uwe Krupp who beat the Cats in Game 4, his shot beating John Vanbiesbrouck at 4:31 of the third overtime. Final score: 1-0.

Again, good times. A few days after the loss, the Panthers held a pep rally/party to honor that team and packed the place, thousands of fans locked out of Miami Arena because the fire marshall wouldn't let anyone else in.

Yes, hockey can work down here. Hopefully we'll see this kind of fervor for the game once again.


Caroliner --The Carolina hockey club of Raleigh unveiled its third uniform today, and truth is, they look pretty nice. All but gone is their goofy 'traditional' logo, in its place, the secondary logo of the Hurricane Watch (memo to Carolina: Hurricane Warning is two flags, not one) flag on the hockey stick. The main color of the uniform is black. I like it, although the flag border on the bottom is a bit much. Don't like that.

-- Like the Panthers, Tampa Bay's hockey club will have 65 games broadcast on Sun Sports (the Panthers are on FSN, but, whatever.)

-- Want to check out the Detroit Red Wings on the cheap? Preseason tickets are on sale now. So how is it Red Wings have five home preseason games and the Panthers only have one? Because they can sell tickets to the exhibition? Gotcha.

-- Good pal (and FOOFP) Corey Masisak of the Washington Times continues his ambitious 30 Teams in 30 Days series. Today's team: The Lightning.

Dallas -- Puck Daddy also is doing a team a day. Today's team: Dallas.

-- Big shock here: ESPN.com has your FIU Golden Panthers ranked dead last among Division I-A football teams.

-- Today's Extra Special Bonus: A FrozenPoll. Time to give me your thoughts on Florida signing Keith Ballard to a new deal. In case you haven't heard. Ballard is signed with Florida through 2015, making just over $4 million per season.

For Entertainment Purposes Only


Vegas, baby, Vegas!

The latest NHL odds are out courtesy of vegasinsider.com, and if you want to put a few bucks down on the Panthers, well, good luck to you.

Of course, with the odds the Panthers are getting to win the Stanley Cup, you could really rake it in if they actually pulled off the miracles of all miracles.

Those of us more realistic might want to lay down a few clams on Detroit (4-1 to win it all) or Pittsburgh (11/2), San Jose (10-1) or Montreal (10-1). Good long shots in my humble opinion: Calgary (30-1), Chicago (35-1) or Edmonton (50-1).

The Panthers are down toward the bottom, currently 50-1 (by my math, a $10 bet would bring you something like $200 if Florida won it all. Or $500. Whatever).

Of course, I would never encourage anyone to bet on sports, nor could I ever condone it. But if you're going to do it anyway, well, here are the latest odds. The way I look at it, the kids are going to find the information somehow. Might as well find it here, you know, where it's safe.

4/1: Detroit; 11/2: Pittsburgh; 10-1: San Jose, Montreal; 12-1: Dallas, Anaheim; 15-1: Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia; 18-1: Washington; 20-1: New Jersey; 22-1: Carolina, Minnesota; 25-1: Colorado; 30-1: Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Nashville, Vancouver; 35-1: Chicago; 40-1: Toronto; 45-1: Tampa Bay; 50-1: Edmonton, FLORIDA. 60-1: Atlanta, St. Louis; 75-1: Islanders, St. Louis, Phoenix; 100-1: Los Angeles.


-- In case you missed it, here is my story on Richard Zednik from today's Miami Herald. Thanks to the good folks at Buffalo General who were so nice and accommodating when I visited in July, as well as Drs. Robert McCormack and Les Bisson.

Also, a shout out to the good folks over at Piccasso's Pizza in West Seneca. He's the guy who sent over a ton of chicken wings and pizza for Richard, his family and the nurses and doctors at Buffalo General back when Richard was stuck there. Had lunch there back in July and enjoyed it. It's close to the airport, so if you're in the hood, check it out.

-- Here's the TSN version of my story.

-- Also, here's the short I wrote on Keith Ballard and the six-year extension he agreed to on Tuesday. Would have been longer, but we had the Zednik story going and needed all the room we could get for that one.

Anyway, I think it's a good signing, only based on things folks around the league are telling me about Ballard – I still have yet to meet the man. If his upside is as strong as the Panthers think it is, this one may be a home run. We're going to have to wait and see, however.

-- Some guy named Mike Van Ryn says he feels pretty comfortable being with the Maple Leafs writes Tim Wharnsby of the Globe&Mail.

-- According to Pierre LeBrun at ESPN.com, Brendan Shanahan wants to remain in New York City. 

-- Chip Alexander writes that the WhalerCanes want to sign Eric Staal to a long-term deal before camp starts.

-- Jason Pominville wants to sign long-term with the Sabres says Friend Of On Frozen Pond (FOOFP) Johnnie Vogl of the Beefalo News.

-- Wayne Fish tries to figure out who will be the next captain of the Flyers. Been keeping me up nights, I must admit.

September 09, 2008

Ballard Locked In Until 2015 (Yep, 2015)

Ballard Big news for the Panthers as defenseman Keith Ballard has signed a six-year contract extension. Ballard, the key part of the Olli Jokinen deal, was set to become a restricted free agent after the coming season.

Ballard came to the Panthers along with Nick Boynton on draft day and is seen as a big part of Florida's defensive future. 

"Keith is only 25 years old,'' GM Jacques Martin said. "It really solidifies our defense. We're adding an individual long-term who has good skating ability, skates hard and was a Hobey Baker runner-up. We really believe that he helps our defense. .-.-. We wanted to get him under contract.''

Ballard will make $2.5 million this coming season. The six-year deal -- likely worth more than $4 million per -- would kick in after this season meaning he's signed through the (grasp this) 2014-15 season.

For those who were wondering, Martin says that this signing has nothing to do with the future of one Jay Bouwmeester.

"I don't think it has anything to do with Jay,'' Martin said. "Our philosophy is to improve our hockey team. We have people we like and people we want to build around. It's an indication to our fans that we're improving and want to put a better team on the ice.''

-- Here's the long-term breakdown of Panther players and seasons they are signed through:

2014-15: Keith Ballard; 2013-14: Rostislav Olesz; 2012-13: Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss; 2011-12: Bryan Allen; 2010-11: Bryan McCabe, Tomas Vokoun.

-- Big news on the baseball front: Looks like the Marlins might finally be getting their ballpark. Will be nice to visit the old neighborhood again...

-- Ever wanted to meet your favorite Panther and get a Boars Head sandwich on the same trip? Ever dreamed of playing poker, ponies and Jai-Alai with Randy Moller? How about picking up a nice gift for the little lady and saying hello to David Booth all at the same time? Well, this is a good time for you, pal.

The Panthers are working hard to get you to pay attention to them, and they'll be all over South Florida in the coming weeks doing just that. From radio appearances to trips to Publix, the Panthers will be hard to miss. Here's the most recent schedule of events.

And those Publix subs are good.

-- Thursday: Noah Welch on 93.9 FM @ 8:30

-- Friday: Wade Belak on 105.9 FM @ 8:30; Bryan Allen at BankAtlantic in Weston; Randy Moller, Denis Potvin and Steve Goldstein appearance at the Boys & Girls Club Golf Tournament in Boca Raton.

-- Saturday: Nathan Horton throws out first pitch @ Marlins game.

-- Sunday, Sept. 14: Tomas Vokoun and Ville Peltonen at Publix in Heron Bay (get me a sub)

-- Monday, Sept. 15: Cats Cookout at the BankAtlantic Center with Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe; Stephen Weiss at Mayors Jewlery in Boca Raton.

-- Tuesday, Sept. 16: David Booth at Mayors Jewlery in Weston; Noah Welch at Coldstone Creamery in Weston.

-- Wednesday, Sept. 17: David Booth at Mayors-Galleria Mall; Randy Moller (uh-oh) celebrity poker player at Sports Talk 790 The Ticket tournament in Dania Beach. Jai-Alai night!

-- Thursday, Sept. 18: Booth at Mayors-Aventura Mall (he better get a sweet watch out of this gig); Brett McLean at MetroPCS in Pembroke Pines.

-- Friday, Sept. 19: Media Day at the BankAtlantic Center; Wade Belak on 105.9 FM

-- Saturday, Sept. 20: First practice, Incredible Ice.


Zednik's Return

ZednikRichard Zednik is back on the ice with his Florida teammates, the speedy forward returning to workouts on Monday.

Richard looks to be in good shape, and showed some of his trademark speed on a number of occasions today at Incredible Ice. Spoke with him after the practice, and as many of you would expect, he wants to put what happened to him in February behind him.

Not going to be that easy. He says he doesn't want to be asked about the accident in Buffalo on a weekly -- or daily -- basis, and says he and the Panthers PR crew are working on some sort of solution. That could be something as easy as them doing an interview with Richard and taping it, then giving DVD copies to media types in each city.

Of course, that isn't going to fly. The only way Richard avoids talking about this in every city the Panthers travel to is to make himself unavailable to the media.

Which, if I was a betting man, is where I think this thing is headed.

Much, much more from Richard in tomorrow's Miami Herald.

-- Word on the street is the Panthers will not have a third alternate jersey this season. So, you're stuck with the blue or the white for at least another year.

-- A good portion of the Panthers are in town and working out, including Bryan McCabe. Those who weren't at practice Tuesday: Jay Bouwmeester, David Booth, Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, Bryan Allen, Brett McLean, Cory Murphy and Rostislav Olesz.

-- The Panthers are going to have 53 players at training camp.

Borat -- Where are they now?: Jozef Stumpel and Branislav Mezei, both part of the Panthers Class of '08, will play for Barys Astana of the new Russian KHL this season. Barys Astana is based in Kazakhstan which, you know, is very nice.


-- The Lightning are the latest team to be linked to Mats Sundin. Hey, as we've stated before: No state/provincial income tax for Mr. Mats. Wake me when this one is over...

-- Daniel Alfredsson is getting ready for what he hopes is a big season in 2008-09. Check out the pic...Say what you will about Incredible Ice, but at least the Panthers don't have to walk around on their knees to save their skates.

-- Do the Sundin -- err, Sedin -- boys have a long-term future in Vancouver? They're checking on it.

-- Ducks owner Henry Samueli may be headed to the Big House (and I ain't talking about Ann Arbor, Michigan).

September 08, 2008

Cowboy Up

CowboysThose Tampa folks sure know how to keep things going in the boring weeks leading into training camp, don't they?

A few days ago, former Lightning coach John Tortorella went off on the new Lightning bosses, you know, the guys who fired him before officially taking over and replacing him with Barry Melrose.

Speaking on an Ottawa radio station, Tortorella said "you got a couple of cowboys there as owners,'' and ripped them for their handling of Dan Boyle as well as the Mezaros trade. Check out the comments -- as well as the actual interview -- here at Tampa Bay.com.

The owners didn't have much to say at first, Oren Koules declining to comment and Len Barrie saying "the bottom line is when you're in 30th place, you have to make changes. We'll let our record speak for how we do next year."

Only Barrie -- a former Panther -- changed his mind, telling Damian Cristodero "what were there, nine openings for coaches? That's why he's working for TV. I'll be sure I wear my cowboy hat for the first game."

Well, allright Cowboy!


-- Have only seen this one place, but thought it needed to be mentioned. According to the Bleacher Report, Mike Van Ryn's time in Toronto may be short. The report says both Ryno and Ian White are on the trade block, with the Leafs trying to move one or both before the season gets going. Check it out here.

-- Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun doesn't think much about Bryan McCabe coming to the Panthers, basically opining that the new Florida d-man must not care about winning if he would come to such a hockey backwater as south Tamarac. Would give you a link, but it's not on their site anymore. So here's what he said:

If you want to know why the Maple Leafs gave up on and gave away Bryan McCabe, here it is in a nutshell: McCabe got to pick where he wanted to play and he chose the Florida Panthers. Translation: He doesn't give a hoot whether he wins or loses and the Leafs were well aware of that. Who would want an apparent leader who is happy playing for a team in a messed-up market that never contends?

Steve must forget that Bryan also requested to go to the New York Rangers. Why would anyone want to go to New York and play for a team that never contends?

-- Don't forget to vote on the best Panthers of all time. Couple of more weeks before the bottom three get lopped off and we add three more to the vote. Lot of interest in this poll, so let's keep it going as we count down the days until training camp.

Your vote counts -- here at least.

-- Despite a tough economy, the Red Wings are selling tickets at a brisk pace and are ahead of last year. Also, don't bet on Mats Sundin wearing the winged wheel next season. Detroiters are going to be close to going over the cap, so they don't have the cash for Mats.

September 05, 2008

Orange Oversight

Uscorange_2The BCS national championship may not mean a whole hill of beans to hockey fans north of Minnesota.

But, in the immortal words of Frank Drebin of Police Squad: This is our hill. And these are our beans.

Seems someone in the NHL scheduling office forgot that our collegiate national football championship will be held on Jan. 8 at Miami Gardens Stadium. The, presumably but not assuredly, two best teams in college football will square off in our little corner of the world that night.

Kuorange As it stands right now, your Florida Panthers will be playing host to Carolina at about the same time as the two college teams are warming up just a few miles away in Miami-Dade County.

I think it's a safe bet that the Panthers move up their game with Carolina, perhaps with a 5 p.m. start. The Panthers are not going to win a head-to-head contest with the BCS championship, not in the TV ratings nor at the turnstile. Of course, the Panthers could gamble and keep the game at 7, knowing that Fox's pregame show probably won't end until 10 and kickoff won't commence until the hockey game is long over.

And believe it or not, they may decide the risk is worth the reward. No one wants an early start time for a hockey game on a Thursday. Truth is, the Panthers are in a no-win situation as far as this game goes.

Moving the game up a day is not an option either; the Panthers visit the Toronto Van Ryns on Tuesday.


-- The LA Kings, in a move that smacks of trying to reach the salary cap floor, gives Jarrett Stoll a big honkin' contract, four years for $14.4 mil. Stoll is a good player, I can't deny that, but this is a huge deal Rachelhunter for what he's done so far. Of course, the Kings could figure that by signing him long-term means more visits to Staples by Stacy's Mom -- AKA, Jarret's fiance Rachel Hunter.

You know what?

Good move Los Angeles.

-- Vancouver to honor Trevor Linden, retiring his jersey and everything.

-- Dougie Mac is back. Doug MacLean, who apparently used to coach the Panthers, will be part of Rogers Sportsnet's new Hockeycentral Tonight. New show kicks off Sept. 22, and since I'll be in Canada with the Panthers, I will be sure to check it out. Doug is a fun guy with a lot of opinions. He's a natural for one of these gigs.

"After 22 years in the NHL, this is a challenging new role," said MacLean. "Analyzing hockey. It doesn’t get any better."

Rachelhunter2 -- Jarret Stoll would probably disagree.

-- The new Russian Super League, the KHL, says the NHL is poaching its players after the LA Kings -- and Rachel Hunter -- signed two of their draft picks. the KHL says Vjateslav Voinov and Andrei Loktionov -- both selected a few months ago by the Kings -- are under contract to KHL teams.

September 04, 2008

Fixing the Bank

Bac The Panthers have officially announced plans to upgrade the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, although it looks like you all are stuck with the outdated scoreboard for at least another year.

As we wrote last summer, the team plans to install "Las Vegas" style marquee boards both on the Sawgrass Expressway side of the arena, and also to the main entrance on 136th Ave. They are also upgrading the sound system, adding large video boards to the entrance and fixing up the suites a little bit more.

Big news is there will be new glass around the boards (hope they keep this set clean) and a new ice making system.

Here's the information straight from the Cat's mouth. Or email.

Vegassign The BankAtlantic Center will install two new Las Vegas-style outdoor marquees utilizing full color LED technology that will be able to display 4.4 trillion colors. One 53-foot outdoor marquee will be installed overlooking the Sawgrass Expressway, while another 37-foot outdoor marquee will be located at the entrance to Gate 5.

These new improvements will greatly enhance the look and feel of the BankAtlantic Center, while helping it maintain its reputation as one of the premier venues in the world,” SSE President & COO Michael Yormark said. “Not only will these enhancements increase the fan experience, but they will also provide new, technologically advanced inventory for our marketing partners. In addition, it is important to thank the City of Sunrise and Broward County for all their support, cooperation and assistance in helping to complete these state-of-the-art projects.”

Additionally, the BankAtlantic Center will install two high resolution indoor lobby vision video boards that will be located above the main entrance of the venue just inside the building. These boards will have both video and audio capabilities and will display the in-house audio and video feed during Florida Panthers hockey games as well as various promotional and public service messages to fans as they leave the game. The new marquees and lobby vision will be supplied and manufactured by AD Systems, a Fort Myers, Fla. based company.

Other capital improvements include:

-- Installation of a state-of-the art line array EAW sound system that will provide sensational acoustic sound at all Florida Panthers games. EAW is a world recognized integrated sound system provider that has earned a reputation as the preferred choice for both sporting events and concert production.

-- Phase two of the BankAtlantic Center’s suite upgrades that includes three new flat screen televisions in all suites, along with new refrigerators and ice makers.

-- Installation of  maxview plexi-glass that is manufactured by Sports Resource Group. This new glass includes wider panels and will allow for better fan viewing, as well as better camera angles for TV broadcasts.

-- Phase one of upgrades on the venue’s ice refrigeration system that includes adding an ethylene glycol solution to the chilled water loop in order to help lower the facility’s humidity levels, increasing the overall quality of the ice surface.