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Hockey Night with the Panthers ... Don Cherry Digging Stephen Weiss and the Cats ... Will South Florida Get 'Cat Scratch Fever' Again?

DoncherryVANCOUVER -- The Panthers were part of the popular Coach's Corner segment during the first intermission of Hockey Night in Canada tonight, Don Cherry offering praise for the Panthers, Stephen Weiss and Pete DeBoer.

He also called players from the Lightning and Senators "thugs who would steal your hubcaps'' because they dared to show up to the rink on a freezing winter night wearing ski caps and not bothering to put on a tie. According to him, the Capitals are in first place because they are dressed sharp and "setting a good example for the kids.''

Well, you get what you get when you listen to Cherry. Dude's popular, but...

Anyway, the Panthers are a huge story up in Canada these days, what with all the wins, the success under DeBoer and, of course, Jay Bouwmeester. The small crowds in Sunrise also got a mention in the lead of today's Calgary Herald, the barb (I laughed) thrown south before the score was mentioned. BankAtlantic Centre...

It's safe to assume the Panthers are a bigger deal here than they are at home. I haven't watched the local Publix news in South Florida in a few days (although I did see a Publix commercial on Atlanta's Peachtree TV that made me a little homesick) but I'll bet Florida's been lucky to get even a single highlight up on the 11 o'clock news what with the team being out of town and the games still going on when the sports segment goes on.

I've also done four radio interviews talking about the team to various Canadian stations, but the only South Florida interview I had planned was with Goldie. And I think I missed his call when I was flying.

One person from the Panthers told me "the Dolphins are killing us.''

Sure, the Dolphins hogging all the spotlight during this surprisingly successful season is taking some steam away from the local hockey team's nice run. But the Dolphins will always overshadow the Panthers. They did last year and they were 1-15.

Truth is, having so many games not being televised is what's really killing the Panthers at home right now.

FSN will tell you ratings for hockey are very low at this time of year and the cost of televising this Canadian roadie wasn't worth the effort ratings-wise (the final three games of this trip started at 9 p.m. Miami time or later). FSN is going to make up for it, a good 95 percent of the games after New Year's being on.

Fiorentino For those wondering, FSN/Sun is televising 71 Miami Heat games this year, six more than the Panthers. Considering the ratings the Heat bring in compared to the Panthers, I'm surprised there's not more of a disparity. At least these games out here are on Center Ice, although if you don't spring for that package, finding a place in South Florida that does can be daunting.

FSN is going to be back on the Panthers bandwagon. They just hope the team is still winning when they do.

Hnnic If not, the Panthers seem to have quite a few people interested in their antics up here in Canada.

I haven't even heard one relocation joke this trip.

Of course, we haven't visted Hamilton. I better wear a tie tomorrow. Don't want people thinking I'm there to steal their hubcaps.

-- Parting thought at the end of the second intermission from HNIC's Hot Stove: Pierre LeBrun doesn't break any news, says the Panthers are going to put the hard sell on Jay Bouwmeester to try and sign; if he doesn't, he'll be moved by the trading deadline.

With the guys off camera, someone muttered "no one is happy in Florida.'' My money is on Al Strachan.

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