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21 posts from July 2009

July 31, 2009

A Long Journey from Miami to Minsk: Ville Peltonen to KHL ... Congrats and Condolences

Villepelts Ville Peltonen's agent told Randy Sexton a few weeks ago that his client was going to play next season in Europe.

Thought was Peltonen was likely going to return to Switzerland, where he played before coming to the Panthers. Perhaps he would play in his native Finland.
Dynamo
Natch. Peltonen has signed to play with Dynamo Minsk, a KHL team based in Belarus.

That's a long way from Sunrise kids.

In three seasons with the Cats, Peltonen scored 34 goals.

Tip of the hat to Litter Box Cats for the Peltonen news via Facebook.

-- On a personal aside, a tip of the old Cowboy hat to long-time Major League umpire Joe West who worked his 4,000th game on Thursday in Milwaukee.

Joewest West, who used to run a little joint by Inverrary Country Club when he was temporarily out of the game, is the 19th umpire to hit the 4,000 game plateau.

West may be best known for his appearance in the climatic baseball scene at Dodger Stadium in the classic movie The Naked Gun with Leslie Nielsen. That and for his love of country music. And love of tossing managers.

Congrats Joe.

-- Also, condolences to the family of Harley-Davidson magnate Bruce Rossmeyer who died in a wreck Thursday morning in Wyoming.

Mr. Rossmeyer owned a ton of Harley dealerships across the country, including the ones in Fort Lauderdale and Sunrise. His local dealerships sponsored the power play at Panthers games the past few seasons and there is a mural of him aboveRossmeyer one of his bikes by the team store in the main concourse at the Sunrise arena.

I never met Mr. Rossmeyer but by all accounts he sounded like a cool guy who had a big heart and gave a lot back to the community.

July 30, 2009

To Florida With Love: KHL Reacts to Evgeni Dadonov, Jiri Hudler

DadonovThe Continental Hockey League (KHL) today announced that it registered the contract of Detroit's Jiri Hudler (a restricted free agent) with Moscow Dynamo in part because the NHL won't step in and cancel Florida prospect Evgeni Dadonov's contract with the Panthers.

The KHL was going to allow the Hudler signing anyway, but I guess they figured this was a good way of getting the Dadonov situation out in the open.

Acting general manager Randy Sexton told me the other day that Dadonov's contract expired and that the slick Russian winger will be in the Florida organization this season. He's expected to start the season in Rochester and Dadonov has told friends and other media outlets that he plans on helping Rochester.

He also feels with a good camp that he is in the mix to make the Panthers out of training camp.

Stranger things have happened.

Of course, the Russian league doesn't see things the way Sexton, Dadonov and the NHL does. According to a story linked to by the New York Times, Dadonov's KHL team is contemplating suing the Panthers for $500,000. The team says Dadonov has two more years on his contract.

Says the KHL: ''All contractual and sports rights for the player belong to HC Tractor Chelyabinsk''

Tractor Pay up and Dadonov belongs to the Panthers. We'll see how this plays out.

The 20-year-old right winger scored 11 goals with four assists in 40 games for the Tractor Traylors last season.

-- The KHL also says it will allow the Hudler deal to go through because there is no agreement between the KHL and NHL regarding RFAs. The NHL doesn't agree with that, but, Hudler is getting a nice paycheck and is fine playing in Europe.

Again, from the KHL: "Hudler has the right to make his own choice in which league he will play.''

I can live with that.

This is America after all. Or Russia. Whatever.

July 29, 2009

Surfing the Web

Spicoli It's a crummy afternoon in the Everglades, a perfect time to catch up on some reading as I try to figure out what's going on in Chicago.

Things are slow in the hockey world, but I think there are some things that may be of interest to those here in South Florida.

-- At PuckTheMedia.com, legendary Pittsburgh announcer Mike Lange is profiled. It's a good read. And he talks about Randy Moller.

-- The Bolts buy out the final three years of Vinny Prospal's contract, meaning he'll be getting over a million bucks from the Lightning for the next six years. And he's a restricted free agent. And Vinny Lecavalier doesn't sound happy his pal is gone.

-- Carolina buys out Frantisek Kaberle, bring back Aaron Ward. Who happened to be golfing in the Raleigh area at the time.

-- Shocking as this may sound, the Jerry Reinsdorf bid for the Coyotes was apparently approved. I cannot believe the Board of Governors turned down Jim Balsillie. Cannot believe it.

-- The Ottawa Sun says ''indications are the best offer'' Alex Tanguay has ''received has been for $1.2 million a season.'' I have heard higher. Substantially higher.

-- Nice job Indians. Being a fan of this team is like being on a crummy Merry-go-Round.

Hopefully more from Chicago in the coming hours.

An Ownership Update

Panthersun Still don't know if the NHL's Board of Governors will be looking at the potential sale of the Panthers or not, but whatever goes down apparently won't happen for a few more months.

Here's what I am hearing today: The Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. and the Panthers are close to have a sale agreement in place. Apparently there are only a few minor details to be worked out. Once a purchase contract is signed, SPAC has 75 days to close the deal; it would have to get 70 percent of its investors to agree to the deal, something that hasn't happened yet.

So even if SPAC agrees to buy the Panthers (by trading stock in the publicly traded company for the team's assets) it's not a done deal. Word is SPAC thinks it has the 70 percent vote to enable it to buy the team, but that is far from a done deal. Again, they would have almost two months to close things out.

All is quiet from the Panthers side of things, but I hear that all the minority investors are on board with this taking place (they are tired of writing checks) and that Michael Yormark would remain with the franchise and continue to run the business side of things.

But this is going to take some time to work out, so unless the Board of Governors address it today in Chicago, there's not much news. And, all the BOG may do is look at the proposal and let the Panthers know whether or not they would approve SPAC as an ownership group.

As far as the GM thing goes, I would guess it continues to drag on. This story is a long way from being wrapped up.

Will update things as the day goes along....

July 28, 2009

Rumor Central: Sale of Florida Panthers Done? Neil Smith as GM?

Bac Got a tip late Tuesday night that the Florida Panthers sale to the Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. is not only not dead, but could be voted on Wednesday.

The NHL's Board of Governors is meeting in Chicago this week with the sale of the Panthers from the Alan Cohen ownership group to the SPAC apparently on the agenda.

As of 11:45 p.m. I have not been able to confirm this, but I have been told it's on the list for Wednesday's things to do -- although the Phoenix/Saskatoon/Hamilton/Winnipeg Coyotes deal will be taking precedence and headlines.

The deal, which I was told was dead in the water at the NHL Draft last month, would include the team, the Sunrise Sports group which runs the team and the arena, as well as the development rights to the land surrounding the Sunrise arena.

We will see what happens on Wednesday. Bill Torrey is in Chicago representing the Panthers; others may be up there as well.

Andrew Murstein, who led the charge for the SPAC, has previously been reported as the new face of the ownership group.

Of course, the NHL could just be approving SPAC for potential ownership of the team; I've been told for SPAC to buy the Panthers -- which there is considerable interest on both sides, obviously -- it would need 80 percent of the shareholders to approve the deal.

There has been a major question whether these investors -- who made their initial investments in 2008 -- may just want their money back instead of investing in a hockey team that has lost plenty of money under Cohen since he bought the team from H. Wayne Huizenga's Boca Resorts group in 2000.

By terms of the SPAC, if a team isn't bought by the bought by the end of the year, the money gets returned to the investors.

Both sides have been incredibly quiet about this, and it is very possible SPAC has its 80 percent and Wednesday's vote (again, which I have not been able to confirm) would usher in a new owner for the Panthers. 

And then again, there may be nothing.

Stay tuned. I'll be up early.

-- If Murstein comes in to run the team, I would think Randy Sexton staying on as general manager is probably unlikely (yes, I wrote today I thought he was keeping the job).

Murstein is reportedly close to former New York Rangers/Islanders GM Neil Smith, who I have been told is one of a handful of finalists for the job as it stands today.

The other finalists for the GM job: Sexton, Doug Reisbrough, Doug MacLean and Jeff Gorton.

Jump Aboard the Panthers Caravan

Dodgecaravan This in from the Florida Panthers:

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today that the Florida Panthers Countdown Caravan will take place from August 1 to Oct. 10 at various locations throughout South Florida and feature an incredible grand prize of a limo ride, dinner for four in the Chairman’s Club, four Panthers jerseys and four tickets to Opening Night at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Florida Panthers Countdown Caravan presented by UnitedHealthcare makes its’ first stop on Saturday, August 1 at Pines Ice Arena from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.


The Caravan – designed to get sports fans excited for the start of the Panthers season in Helsinki on Oct. 2 & 3 vs. Chicago and at home on Oct. 10 vs. New Jersey – will feature attractions such as slap shot competitions, guest player and broadcaster appearances, Bova Panthers Ice Dancers appearances, Stanley C. Panther appearances, food and drink stands, inflatable activities like bounce houses and rock walls, prizes, giveaways, and more. 

“The Countdown Caravan presented by UnitedHealthcare is an opportunity for us to engage our fans at a grass roots level and get them excited about the 2009-10 Florida Panthers season,” said SSE president & COO Michael Yormark. “It also represents a chance for us to give back to our fans from all over the tri-county area, that come to the BankAtlantic Center and support the Panthers all year long.”

The Panthers Countdown Caravan presented by UnitedHealthcare will visit locations throughout the tri-county area including malls, public parks, local neighborhoods and more. The events are free and open to the public.

Talkin' Hockey on a Sunny Afternoon: Conversations with Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer ... Sexton New GM?

Clerkshockey Good afternoon Panther fans, hope it's not too hot out there for you.

Spoke to Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer today about this and that, and while I have no update on Alex Tanguay, I do have some other things to share.

If that's OK with everyone, that is.

As far as Tanguay goes, I still hear the Panthers are in the running, but Randy wouldn't comment on anything. At all. So we continue to wait.

-- As far as the GM search goes, I bet it stays with Randy. He says he has no real update, but he sounds like the guy:

"I'm pleased with what we have done,'' he said. ''For me, it's straight ahead, lots to do every day. I'm trying to make the team better, the organization better. The GM stuff will sort itself out.''

Randysexton -- Sexton says he is hard at work trying to get top pick Dmitry Kulikov signed before training camp. Like most young Russians, Kulikov has a contract with the KHL.

It does have a buyout trigger, one the player -- not the team -- has to pay out. I'm sure that will be included in the purchase price.

''I've been talking with his agent,'' Sexton said. ''We're not there yet, but it's going well.''

-- As far as the roster goes, if it's set, well, that's OK with Randy and Pete.

"We don't really need anymore changes. There's still a pool of guys out there if we see some weaknesses during camp we could get. We are looking around a little toughness. But we're still looking to improve. But I like our team. If we find the right deal and it helps our chemistry and depth, we'll do it. If not, we will wait. There could be additions. But again, I like this team. Pete likes this team. We're comfortable with it.''

Said Pete DeBoer:

''We took a step in the right direction last year and came close,'' DeBoer said of last year's finish, one in which the Panthers tied the Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final playoff spot but missed out on a tiebreaker. The Canadiens beat Florida in three of four games played.

''We played good hockey for two-thirds of the season. We want to build on that. Our start is critical. I am very excited to get these guys back in camp and I sense some excitement. Guys want to get going.''

As for wheeling and dealing, Sexton said he stayed in constant contact with his second-year coach. DeBoer seems to like what the Panthers have and actually discouraged Sexton from messing with the team's dynamic too much.

''He's comfortable with this team,'' Sexton said. ''We talked about a few deals, and he encouraged me not to make them. He thinks there is more here, more upside.''

-- As far as guys stepping up:

''You can never predict injuries,'' Sexton said. "You have to accept we'll have a normal amount. We expect Nathan to bounce back, Weiss made good progress with an injured wrist. We expect more up front from Booth. Olesz missed a good chunk, Stillman never really recovered from his concussion. We added Reinprecht, a 45-50 point guy. I think we're going to be OK on offense. You always want more, but what does it cost to get more?''

Deboerjm Says DeBoer: ''There's definitely room for improvement,'' DeBoer said. ''We need Weiss, Frolik, Campbell and Booth to not just repeat what they did last year but add to it. I think they can. We're not going to have the luxury of scoring depth so no one can have off years. Those guys who performed have to repeat and some of the guys who had off years need to have big years. I think everyone is capable of improving and I see this team being better. I'm excited about it.''

-- How about Evgeni Dadonov? He'll be with the Florida organization next year, and he'll get a shot to make the team in training camp. Randy says his KHL contract ''has expired.''


''He will be with the organization,'' Sexton said. ''It may take him a little while to adjust to the North American pro game, but he has very good hockey sense. Elite hockey sense. He's not big, but crafty and clever. He has terrific potential. We all know there will be injuries. If he's playing well [in Rochester], he'll get up for some games.''

-- DeBo on what's up with the Panthers:

''Obviously I'm excited about our forward group. We addressed a need for a center with Reinprecht and resigning Dvorak was a big key in order to get some consistency back. We had guys do a good job. We're like a lot of teams this year; we're going to give young guys a chance to show what they can do. Hopefully we'll hit on another Frolik.

''I don't know if we are done or not, but we've filled some holes. You don't replace a Jay Bouwmeester, but with Ville [Koistinen] and Jordan Leopold, we have skating puck-movers. It just depends how the young guys develop.''

-- As far as the young guys go, DeBo thinks they are all on the right track. The young players are not getting a free pass.

"I last saw them at the development camp in Toronto,'' he said. ''We spent a week working out on and off the ice. I met with all the young players at that point and gave them a clear understanding of what our expectations are. They are pros now and have to show they did that work in camp.''

-- On coming back for a second season:

Deboer1 "My comfort level coming into camp is much different than a year ago,'' DeBoer said. "I have a good idea of the personnel we have. Guys who played major roles here, well, I know them. That should translate to a good start.

"Last year we took the approach that I was going to give everyone an audition in the first 10, 15 games. We struggled through that period, through that process. We don't have to go through that this year. I know 90 percent of our guys, I know what they are capable of.

''I will know much sooner whether they are toeing the line or not and we can make the appropriate changes.''

-- Here is what I see the current depth chart looking like. Obviously much can change. Yes, it's still real, real early...

The Florida Panthers -- As of July 28, 2009

Forwards

David Booth-Stephen Weiss-Nathan Horton

Cory Stillman-Steve Reinprecht-Michael Frolik

Rostislav Olesz-Gregory Campbell-Radek Dvorak

Nick Tarnasky-Kamil Kreps-Michal Repik

Defensemen

Keith Ballard-Bryan McCabe; Bryan Allen-Jordan Leopold; Ville Koistinen-Keaton Ellerby

Goaltenders

Tomas Vokoun; Scott Clemmensen

Spares: C Shawn Matthias, LW Kenndal McArdel; RW Evgeni Dadonov; D Dmitry Kulikov; D Jason Garrison

July 23, 2009

Summer Daze

Catpool As the temperatures rise, so too do the Alex Tanguay reports.

Last week, it was 'reported' that he had signed a deal. He did not. Some within the Panthers organization thought a deal was close. It may not have been.

Tanguay is still out there and the Panthers still have a deal on the table. I'm told the Panthers still think they have a shot at the left winger.

Today I've read reports from our pal Craig Custance at The Sporting News that the Panthers are out of the running, with it being down to Tampa or Phoenix. I've also read that the cap-strapped Flames are trying to bring Tanguay back, although word is Tanguay didn't like it in Calgary all that much.

Will update if I hear anything concrete, but right now, things are just pure speculation. And Tanguay's camp is in no hurry to do anything because more and more teams seem to jump into the mix.

We still have quite some time until training camp opens kids.

July 21, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie: Baltimore Orioles Fly the Coop, Leave Fort Lauderdale

Lauderdaleclosed Fort Lauderdale's love affair with spring training baseball is over.

According to numerous reports, the Orioles have agreed to move their spring operations to Sarasota starting next February.

So for the first time in more than 50 years, when pitchers and catchers report, it won't be in Miami-Dade or Broward counties.

The Cardinals and Marlins continue to train in Jupiter, but, they play ball in Port St. Lucie, too.

The Orioles had worked out a deal to remain in Fort Lauderdale, but the FAA screwed it up by jacking up the rent on the pLauderdalestadium1roperty so they are now gone.

For baseball fans, the O's -- and the teams they brought to Fort Lauderdale -- will be missed.

A real shame.

The Orioles started training in South Florida in 1959, then bolted for the west coast for a couple years before taking over Fort Lauderdale when the Yankees left in 1996.

Broward also had spring training in Pompano Beach, with the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers playing off US 1 from 1961-86.

July 16, 2009

Alex Tanguay Reports False ... For Now

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Word from the Panthers is the latest Alex Tanguay rumors regarding his signing with the team are false. But Florida is one of the teams the talented left winger is considering, so as always, stay tuned. I'm northbound and down, 10-4 good buddy...

July 15, 2009

The Florida Panthers: Coming to a Town Near You

Shania CHARLOTTE -- Am in the great state of North Carolina and finally have enough cell signal that the air card works again.

So, sorry for the delay.

As you have probably seen many other places, the 2009-10 schedule came out today and the Panthers are going to find themselves playing a lot of back-to-back games this year.

Blame it on the Olympic break. The NHL has to jam in the same amount of games in the same time frame while taking a couple weeks off at the same time.

The stats:

This season, Florida will play on consecutive nights 18 times – with the team splitting a home and an away game in nine of them.

Florida will only play host to a back-to-back set once this year, on March 20-21 when Buffalo and Tampa Bay visit Sunrise on consecutive nights.

This year's schedule is more balanced than in past years, with the Panthers only going to the west coast once for a game at San Jose. Florida's longest road trip is four games (Dec. 9-14, at Columbus, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and New York Islanders); Florida's longest homestand is also four games (March 16-21 vs. Washington, Phoenix, Buffalo and Tampa Bay).

The Panthers will visit each of the other 14 Eastern Conference teams at least twice, with three road games against divisional opponents.

Florida will also travel to Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota, Colorado and San Jose. Florida will play Western Conference opponents Chicago, Colorado and Nashville twice this season.

Florida opens at home on Oct. 10 against the Devils and gets its first visit from the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Nov. 23. Florida is home for Thanksgiving with three games that week with big draws Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers and Toronto coming to town.

Florida will play in New York on Dec. 23, but be at home against Boston two days after Christmas. The Montreal Canadiens will visit on New Year's Eve with a special 5 p.m. starting time. Florida will also play host to Western Conference teams Los Angeles, Colorado, Edmonton, Anaheim, Calgary (Bouwmeester and Jokinen), Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), Phoenix and Nashville.

The Panthers have two home games that are on the same day the Dolphins play at home, although on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, the Dolphins kick off at 1 and the Panthers don't play until 5.

And on Jan. 3, fans from western Pennsylvania can double-dip as the Steelers visit Miami the same day the Penguins play in Sunrise. The Panthers home opener on Oct. 10 is the same day Florida A&M visit the Hurricanes in Miami Gardens.


And should the Panthers be in the hunt for a playoff spot, the end of the season doesn't look all that daunting. Florida, which has missed the postseason for eight straight seasons, plays four of its final five games at home. The team ends the regular season with games against Tampa Bay on consecutive nights. The Lightning visit Florida in both team's regular season finale on April 11.

Oh, and Halloween in St. Louis. That should be fun.

2009-10 Florida Panthers Schedule

ALL TIMES EASTERN

ALL DATES & TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE

October

Fri.             2     @ Chicago           11:00 a.m. *Helsinki

Sat.            3     vs. Chicago           Noon*Helsinki

Fri.             9     @ Carolina           7:00 p.m.

Sat.            10    vs. NJ Devils         7:00 p.m.

Mon.          12    @ Tampa Bay      7:30 p.m.

Fri.             16    vs. Philadelphia     7:30 p.m.

Wed.          21    vs. Buffalo             7:30 p.m.

Fri.             23    @ Pittsbugh          7:30 p.m.

Sat.             24   @ Philadelphia        7:00 p.m.

Wed.          28    vs. Ottawa           7:30 p.m.

Fri.             30    @ Dallas              8:30 p.m.

Sat.             31    @ St. Louis         8:00 p.m.

November

Wed.          4      vs. Carolina           7:30 p.m.

Fri.             6      vs. Washington      7:30 p.m.

Sat.            7      @ Washington      7:00 p.m.

Thu.           12    @ Boston             7:00 p.m

Sat.            14    vs. NY Islanders   7:00 p.m.

Mon.          16    vs. Los Angeles     7:30 p.m.

Wed.          18    @ Buffalo             7:00 p.m.

Fri.             20    @ Detroit             7:30 p.m.

Sat.            21    @ NY Rangers     7:00 p.m.

Mon.          23    vs. Pittsburgh        7:30 p.m.

Wed.          25    vs. NY Rangers    7:30 p.m.

Fri.             27    vs. Toronto           7:30 p.m.

Sat.            28    @ Nashville          8:00 p.m.

Mon.          30    @ Atlanta             7:00 p.m.              

December

Wed.          2     vs. Colorado         7:30 p.m.

Thu.           3     @ Washington      7:00 p.m.

Sat.            5     vs. Atlanta             7:00 p.m.

Mon.          7     vs. Edmonton        7:30 p.m.

Wed.          9     @ Columbus         7:00 p.m.

Fri.             11    @ New Jersey      7:00 p.m.

Sat.            12    @ Pittsburgh         7:30 p.m.

Mon.          14    @ NY Islanders    7:00 p.m.

Wed.          16    vs. Atlanta             7:30 p.m.

Fri.             18    vs. Carolina           7:30 p.m.

Sat.            19    @ Carolina           7:00 p.m.

Mon.          21    @ Philadelphia      7:00 p.m.

Wed.          23    @ NY Rangers     7:00 p.m.

Sun.           27     vs. Boston          5:00 p.m.

Thu.            31   vs. Montreal          5:00 p.m.

 January

Sun.           3       vs. Pittsburgh      5:00 p.m.

Tue.           5     @ Toronto            7:00 p.m.

Thu.           7     @ Montreal          7:30 p.m.

Sat.            9     @ Ottawa             7:00 p.m.

Wed.          13    vs. Washington      7:30 p.m.

Thu.           14    @ Tampa Bay      7:30 p.m.

Sat.            16    vs. Tampa Bay      7:00 p.m.

Mon.          18    vs. Atlanta             7:30 p.m.

Wed.          20    @ New Jersey      7:00 p.m.

Thu.           21    @ NY Islanders    7:00 p.m.

Sat.            23    vs. Toronto         7:00 p.m.

Tue.          26     vs. Montreal       7:30 p.m.

Fri .            29     @ Washington          7:00 p.m.

Sun.            31   vs. NY Islanders   5:00 p.m.

 February

Mon.          1     vs. Anaheim          7:30 p.m.

Fri.             5     vs. Calgary            7:30 p.m.

Sat.            6     @ Atlanta             7:00 p.m.

Tue.           9     @ Carolina           7:00 p.m.

Thu.           11    vs. Vancouver       7:30 p.m.

Sat.            13    vs. Boston             7:00 p.m.

 March

Tue.           2     @ Atlanta             7:00 p.m.

Wed.          3     vs. Philadelphia     7:30 p.m.

Sat.            6     vs. Carolina           7:00 p.m.

Tue.           9     @ Minnesota        8:00 p.m.

Thu.           11    @ Colorado         9:00 p.m.

Sat.            13    @ San Jose          10:30 p.m.

Tue.           16    vs. Washington      7:30 p.m.

Thu.           18    vs. Phoenix           7:30 p.m.

Sat.            20    vs. Buffalo             7:00 p.m.

Sun.           21    vs. Tampa Bay      5:00 p.m.

Tue.           23    @ Toronto            7:00 p.m.

Thu.           25    @ Montreal          7:30 p.m.

Sat.            27    @ Ottawa             7:00 p.m.   

Mon.          29    vs. Nashville          7:30 p.m.

Wed.          31   @ Buffalo             7:00 p.m.

 April

Thu.             1    @ Boston             7:00 p.m.

Sat.              3    vs. NY Rangers    7:00 p.m.

Tue.             6    vs. Ottawa            7:30 p.m.   

Thu.              8   vs. New Jersey      7:30 p.m.           

Sat.             10   @ Tampa Bay       7:30 p.m.

Sun.            11   vs. Tampa Bay      5:00 p.m.





July 14, 2009

Checking in from the Road: Schedules, Baseball All-Stars and Alex Tanguay

Savannah SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Good afternoon hockey fans, just checking in from the road. Have had plenty of time to make some phone calls and do some other things, so I figured, why not jump in and share some of that information with y'all.

-- First off, we have to get a Zaxby's in South Florida. We've got Chik-fil-A, Cracker Barrel and Steak and Shake. How about some golden chicken fingers? Anyone out there want to get us a franchise? It'll be a huge success, you can thank me later.

-- Big baseball game tonight, hopefully better than the never ending home run derby. Don't even remember who won. Lost interest. I was just happy the sound wasn't on. Chris Berman and all.

-- The Panthers are going to unveil next year's schedule tomorrow as is every NHL team in the league. Check back here tomorrow and we'll have it as soon as I can fire up the laptop and get it online. Going to be driving to North Carolina tomorrow so it could be a bit of an adventure. But we'll get things done. Talking to Randy, Michael and Pete sometime around 4 p.m. so check back after that for their thoughts on the schedule.

-- This much we know: The Panthers open in Helsinki, Finland on Oct. 2-3 with a pair of games against the Blackhawks. Florida will then come home and rest up, playing host to the New Jersey Devils. For those on the hockey beat, Florida will be visiting all 14 east teams as well as San Jose, Colorado, Columbus, St. Louis and Nashville.

Yeah Nashville!

-- Alex Tanguay? An offer is on the table from the Panthers as well as other teams. Right now the Tanguay camp is said to be taking its sweet time, trying to find the right fit. He apparently didn't like it in Calgary, didn't like it in Montreal. Well, South Florida is the anti-Calgary/Montreal. He'll have fun down here, that's for sure. Should hear something from him in the coming days. If the Panthers lose out on Tanguay (and he may just take a one-year to come here), expect another minor move before training camp.

Eurovacation - Speaking of training camp, did some math the other day (go ahead and laugh) and here's what I came up with: The Panthers, by playing seven games in nine nights, will travel a minimum of 7,000 miles before embarking on the European Vacation.

Florida will fly to Nova Scotia, then play a game in Halifax before flying off to Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Dallas. Then, the flight to Helsinki (estimated one-way: 5,100 miles).

-- And they'll be announcing that Fenway Park will play host to this year's winter classic, and I have no problem with that at all. Fenway is a classic location for a hockey game.

But I still say the NHL needs to seriously look at Camden Yards in Baltimore for a future game. Think about it: Put the Flyers and the Caps (both cities are about an hour drive in either direction) in Charm City and the NHL can bask in the glory of putting 40,000-plus fans into a beautiful ballpark in a non-NHL city. I don't see how this one can lose.

Of course, now the Flyers will have been involved in one. I don't like the Bruins/Flyers matchup, but hey, that's me.

-- In case you missed it, Noah Welch and Anthony Stewart both signed with the Thrashers. Former Panther Joel Kwiatkowski also signed with the ATLers, but he was under contract in Russia for another season and will have to go back. Sorry, Kiwi.

-- See you tomorrow...

July 10, 2009

The Billboard is Honored: BankAtlantic Center ranked No. 3 ... Another Rochester Move

Thrashboard The Billboard announced today that it was ranked third nationally by trade publication PollStar. I don't know what that means, but I guess it's a big honor.

Would like to know what these rankings are based on, and, who the top two arenas are. But that is not in the presser and it's really expensive to sign into the PollStar website so, well, I'll let the press release do the talking:

Trade Publication
PollStar announced today that the BankAtlantic Center ranked No. 3 in the United States and No. 13 in the world in the publication’s mid year arena venue rankings. The national and worldwide rankings are the highest in the history of the BankAtlantic Center.

“Quite simply, the first half of 2009 was an incredible six months of entertainment at the BankAtlantic Center,”
Sunrise Sports & Entertainment president & chief operating officer Michael Yormark said. “These record-breaking Pollstar rankings, coupled with our exciting and diverse event schedule, are further proof that the BankAtlantic Center continues to be the premier South Florida destination for entertainers and fans alike.  Moving forward we will continue to maintain an aggressive programming strategy with a number of big shows already on tap for the summer of 2009.”

 The BankAtlantic Center ranked ahead of such renowned venues as the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, the Bell Centre in Montreal, Madison Square Garden in New York, the Izod Center in New Jersey, American Airlines Center in Dallas, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, and more.

“We appreciate the continued support from all the promoters, agents and entertainers who played an important role in helping us achieve this record-breaking ranking,” said SSE vice president of event programming Sid Greenfeig. “We look forward to welcoming them back for future concerts at our venue.”

Upcoming shows at the BankAtlantic Center include Metallica, the Jonas Brothers, Aerosmith, Depeche Mode, Monster Jam Summer Heat and more.


-- The Panthers also announced a minor move today as the team signed AHLer Graham Mink. A University of Vermont grad, Mink should turn out to be a strong addition to the Americans. He has played in Portland, Hersey and Worchester the past few seasons.

-- In case you missed it, Nick Boynton signed with the Ducks yesterday.

July 09, 2009

The Canadian Panthers: Another Wacky Panthers Preseason ... Ville Peltonen Gone to Europe

Bobdoug2 If the Panthers get off to another crummy start this season, well there's another excuse already built in: Another crazy preseason schedule.

As Randy Sexton pointed out, it's not a loony as the preseason Mike Keenan set up in 2006 where the team went to Puerto Rico and Detroit on back-to-back nights, but it's close.

Florida will open training camp by holding physicals in Sunrise/Coral Springs on Sept. 12; then they board a plane bound for Nova Scotia. The team opens workouts on the 13th, then plays Ottawa in Halifax, N.S., on the 15th.

From there, Florida will visit Ottawa (Sept. 16), the Montreal Martins (Sept. 17), Edmonton (Sept. 18), the Calgary Bouwjokinens (Sept. 20) and the Dallas Nieuwys (Sept. 22) before finally returning to South Florida for a game against Dallas at The Billboard on Sept. 23.

After all that, the team leaves for Europe a few days after getting back to South Florida to play a pair of exhibition games in Finland. The probably wore out Panthers open the regular season in Helsinki on Oct. 2-3 against Chicago.

Sexton said the team wanted to play seven preseason games, and the Edmonton/Calgary games had already been agreed to before the Europe trip ''popped up.'' So, they added the trip to Dallas so the west coast swing at least brought a game on the way home.

Should be a fun trip.

For whom, I have no idea.

-- Randy Sexton says he spoke to the agent for Ville Peltonen on Thursday and that it looks like Ville is not only not coming back to the Panthers next season, but probably will not play in the NHL either. As had been long rumored, it appears Ville Peltonen will play in Europe next season, probably in Switzerland.

Panthers Preseason 2009

Tues., Sept. 15   vs. Ottawa Senators                            Halifax Metro Centre                                           6 p.m.

Wed., Sept. 16   @Ottawa Senators                              Scotiabank Place                                                7 p.m.

Thur., Sept 17     @Montreal Canadiens                       Bell Centre                                                            7:30 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 18       @ Edmonton Oilers                            Rexall Place                                                         9 p.m.

Sun., Sept. 20    @ Calgary Flames                              Pengrowth Saddledome                                     9 p.m.

Tue., Sept. 22     @ Dallas Stars                                    American Airlines Center                                   8:30 p.m.

Wed., Sept. 23    vs. Dallas Stars                                   BankAtlantic Center                                          7:30 p.m.

Mon. Sept 28      @ Tappara                                            Hakametsän Arena                                              Noon

Wed. Sept. 30     @ Jokerit                                               Hartwall Areena                                                   Noon

July 07, 2009

Pierre Groulx to Canadiens

Pierre1 Sure this is old news by now and it's certainly not a surprise, but Pierre Groulx has landed on his feet and will join Jacques Martin's staff in Montreal as the new goalie coach of the Canadiens.

Pierre has spent the past four seasons with the Panthers, coming over from Ottawa with JM after the 2003-04 season. Pierre was the video coach for his first few years, then took over the goalie gig two seasons ago. He was let go by Pete DeBoer earlier this summer as he decided the Panthers wanted to go with a part time guy.

Good for Pierre, this is obviously a huge bump up in stature. And I don't think he'll be doing the goalie breakdown on game broadcasts anymore. Don't think that's going to fly on Canadian television.

Cheaper Tickets at The Billboard

Arena2 With a still bad economy and a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since Bill Clinton was in office, the Panthers unveiled their season ticket prices today and not surprisingly, prices remain the same or lower than they did last year.

The Panthers have also said that concession prices will remain the same as last year, so take that for what it is. The team is also planning on offering some kind of bargain concessions. I will be selling hot dogs for $2 near the press box, so come up and visit.

Last year, the team had a $9 per game season ticket; this season, it'll be $7. That's pretty strong. People in Toronto can't even get a 12 ounce cup of Molson for that.

Here's what the Panthers are offering:

     

-   Concession prices will remain flat for the 2009-10 NHL regular season and new, bargain-priced options will be introduced

-          $7 ticket is the lowest season ticket price in BankAtlantic Center history

-          $35 is the lowest lower bowl season ticket price in BankAtlantic Center history

-          All Panthers tickets include parking

-          Convenient Panthers start times will remain at 7:30 pm (weekdays) and 7 p.m. (weekends)

-          Previously renewed fans that are affected by this price change have already been contacted by the organization.

-          In an effort to simplify the overall pricing structure and maintain consistency of value, the team will implement only a very limited number of promotional offers throughout the 2009-10 NHL season.

Florida Panthers Full Season Ticket Pricing Structure:

 

 

08/09

09/10

1st Row

 $207

 $207

Panther Club - Rows 2-4

 $132

 $115

Premium Lower Sidelines

 $92

 $82

Premium Plaza Middle

 $82

 $72

Premium End Zones

 $72

 $70

Lower Bowl Sidelines

 $77

 $65

Plaza Middle

 $67

 $60

Lower Bowl End Zone (Shoot 2x)

 $50

 $50

Lower Bowl End Zone (Locker Room)

 $50

 $35

Lexus Club

 $60

 $55

Mezzanine

 $42

 $38

Sideline Balcony

 $25

 $25

Goal Zone

 $17

 $12

Terrace

 $9

 $7

July 03, 2009

Rain Cancels Cup Qualifying ... Tony Stewart on Poll for Saturday's Firecracker 400 ... Game On for Friday Race @ 8

Tonystewart DAYTONA BEACH -- A brief but powerful thunderstorm rolled into town not too long ago and soaked the track good enough that qualifying for Saturday's Cup Series race was canceled.

Officials here say they are going to finish qualifying for tonight's Nationwide Series race; that race is supposed to start sometime around 8 p.m.

The field for Saturday's 400 will be set based off driver's points, so Tony Stewart will be on the pole and start on the front row with Jeff Gordon.

Stewart on the pole, his third in the past five races (all thanks to the weather):

''It's still a pole due to rain and we're still going to start the race on the pole tomorrow,'' he snarkily answered one question.

-- The rain is gone and the track is dry. The Nationwide Series race will go off as scheduled although they never did finish qualifying.

Taking a Left Turn: Welcome to Daytona ... King Richard Speaks ... Brian France As Well ... Stupid Rain

Pettyreagan DAYTONA BEACH -- Welcome to On Racing Pond, the NASCAR version of our slice of the internet.

Hanging at Daytona this weekend, up here for the two races. It's raining right now, but it should clear up for tonight's Grand National race. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Going to have news and notes throughout the race weekend so stop on back if that's your cup of brew. If not, hey, we aren't charging for this so come back later.

And if anything hockey breaks, we'll take a break from racing for that as well.

-- Richard Petty is sitting about 20 feet from me in the media center talking about his participation here this weekend. Petty, of course, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his final NASCAR win, a milestone victory which just happened to be No. 200 of his illustrious career.

After winning No. 200, Petty continued running for eight more seasons. He said today that he never thought that big victory -- one in which President Ronald Reagan visited Victory Lane -- would be his last.

"The big part was the president of the United States was there and it was July 4,'' Petty said. ''I couldn't have written a better script. It all just fell together. Back then it was a big deal. It's probably still a big deal in some people's mind. It's great to be back, great to be here after 25 years.

''It's not every July 4 when you get to sit down with the president of the United States and have a chicken wing with him.''

Petty is going to be honored by the track throughout the weekend, and he's going to pace the field Saturday night in a replica of that car he won the race in. He might just test the mettle of that ride. His son Kyle will serve as the race's grand marshal.

''That's going to interesting,'' King Richard said. ''They're starting me in the front and I don't have a restrictor plate. It's going to be a really big deal for me, just those memories coming back and being in front of so many people. It really brings back a bunch of good memories. Some bad ones too, but you try to let the good ones overcome that.''

-- Brian France, the chairman of NASCAR, spoke at length today about the decision by a federal judge to overturn the suspension of Jeremy Mayfield. Mayfield, who could have run this weekend, hasn't been seen around these parts but it's possible he could race next week.

''We have the right amount of flexibilities when we know we have to suspend a driver,'' he said. ''And as I said earlier, we have tests all the time where we get positive tests, for one substance or another or prescribed orMayfield over-the-counter and how we handle that is, like I said, with the policy; it has some flexibility to that. We don't just go laying the hammer down and ruining someone's career.  That's not what we are talking about when we are talking about Jeremy's situation. You know what he was tested for. That's unequivocal. There's not confusion about that from a science standpoint. 

''And we will stand by our right to protect all of the drivers, all of the fans, from somebody, and just because they said 'I didn't do it,' or something could have gone wrong with the test, people can say that.  But our test is thorough, the process is complete; and if we can improve it, like we have-we inspect the cars differently than we did last year. We improve all kinds of things from a policy standpoint. We are open to doing that. 

''But if you are asking me, does the policy fit the intended outcomes that we are trying to have, which is to prevent somebody from being on the track impaired, are we doing everything that we can do; that's our responsibility. And you know, I think we are. And if we can do more, we will.''

Hyundai -- France also spoke about the possibility of another manufacturer coming into fold. It's nothing eminent, but something that's out there. How about Hyundai in NASCAR. That would be cool.

''Our policy and our views haven't really changed,'' France said. ''Some of the opportunities for a new manufacturer to come into NASCAR probably have changed. Obviously, there are teams that were getting direct support or were affiliated with one manufacturer or another that are available now.  So that is a fact. 

''We have been talking and we have routinely, because we are open, as we demonstrated with Toyota, which worked well, under the right approach that's unique to NASCAR, for a manufacturer to come in and compete at one of our national divisions. That policy remains open. It is not something that happens easily or overnight.

''These decisions by a potential manufacturer take a lot of time and evaluation on their behalf, because to enter into NASCAR has to be, you know, done in a way that is complementary to what has been established in the past. And those conversations are ongoing. I do not anticipate, there's absolutely nothing imminent that we will be announcing or should be will be joining or any of that, that position. 

''But do I see more interests because there's more opportunity? Sure. We see that and we're fielding the kinds of questions and evaluation that you would think under the circumstances.''

-- Qualifying for tonight's race was halted by rain with three guys left to give 'er a try. That has delayed the Cup qualifying (which should be going on right now) as well...

-- For those Indy fans out there, James Davidson earned his first pole in the IndyLights Series and will lead the field at Watkins Glen this weekend. Sebastian Saavedra qualified second.


July 02, 2009

Changing their Spots: Florida Panthers Get Leopold ... Randy Sexton ''ecstatic''

Leopold ON THE FLORIDA TURNPIKE - The Panthers just called and told me Jordan Leopold has been signed to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million.

Seems Randy Sexton was at the right place at the right time, sending Jordan's agent an email asking him ''what was up'' after seeing that Leopold hadn't signed anywhere yet. After Leopold's agent said his client would take a one-year deal, things started rolling.

The Panthers acquired the exclusive negotiating rights to Leopold on Saturday at the draft in exchange for Jay Bouwmeester's rights. Florida also got a third round pick out of the deal.

Here's what Randy and Jordan had to say about today's events:

RANDY SEXTON

''Sometimes these things take longer than you would hope. There was genuine interest in Jordan's part, genuine interest on our part. Had to work through the market, Jordan's family to decide what they wanted to do. I stayed in touch with his agent and sent him an e-mail today and said 'you haven't signed yet, what's up.' He called back, had a short conversation saying he had to talk to Jordan and wife. Then he called back and said 'here's the deal'.''

''I'm not glad to get it done, I'm pumped to get it done. I'm ecstatic to have Jordan in Florida.

''Jordan turned down more money and longer term from other teams. That shows how much he wanted to play here.

''If you look at our defense now, we felt it was important to upgrade our mobility. I feel like we've done that. We're a mobile group now. We're excited about our mobility. Knock on wood, hope Bryan can play all year. That's like making a trade.

''We didn't make an offer initially, we just talked and looked at different kinds of deals. We just couldn't get it right, couldn't quite agree on things. I sent his agent an e-mail, asked if he would consider a one year, he said he would and to call him. It all worked out. I have a real good relationship with his agent.

''We are never done looking to improve. We're going to be relentless in our pursuit of finding good players. We're creeping up to where we were last year. Rest assured, we're not done. That doesn't mean anything is eminent. But we're not sitting back. We're not done.''

On Karlis Skrastins:

''The last number I had from agent was $2 million and one year. We always wanted him back, wanted a one year, he got two. Two million for one year was a bit much. That's it.

''We didn't make a two-year offer. Only a one. We made him an offer on a one year today, he took the security of the two year in Dallas.''

JORDAN LEOPOLD

“You look at an opportunity to play, and I don't know if other teams were the right fit for my family. I'm happy, I'm excited and ready to prove myself and look forward to the opportunity.

''Things were pretty quiet this afternoon, don't know if that was good or bad. I had never been through free agency, and some teams were interested. Randy called and I had to make a decision. I had prior conversations with him, at the end, it was a pretty easy decision.

''Anyone is a possibility at any time. Other teams called, it didn't work out. This worked out well for both of us.''

On Keith Ballard:

''He was at his parents' cabin on in island in the middle of nowhere. We talked Monday, talked about a few things. It was positive. I just wanted to test the market and Florida was always in back of my mind. Randy called at the right time and it worked out.''





Randy Sexton: We're Fine. Really? ... Karlis Skrastins to Dallas ... There's Money to Spend ... Despite All This, Cats are No. 90

Airplane7 Are the Florida Panthers better or worse today than they were yesterday.

I'm going with worse. Hard to believe, eh?

On behalf of the fans of the Florida Panthers who have been flooding my email box as well as our comment sections, I hope acting GM Randy Sexton is still working on something.

Because as this team stands right now, I cannot see the Panthers being a legitimate playoff threat.

Right now I see the Panthers battling Atlanta and Tampa Bay for third in the Southeastern Conference (and the way ATL finished the season, I give the Thrash the edge).

I sure don't see Florida in the same ballpark as Washington and Carolina.

Today we find out that Florida lost another solid defenseman as Karlis Skrastins is going west, joining Joe Nieuwendyk in Dallas. Skrastins signs a two-year deal worth about $1.4 per season. Have to think the Panthers offered something close or even more. If they didn't, well, they either didn't like Skrastins all that much or they are seriously pinching the pennies.

That, or Skrastins just didn't want to stay here. And I never got that impression from him.

How bad is the Florida defense right now? I have to file depth charts to The Hockey News listing eight defensemen. I can come up with six, and that's using Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby. Anyone have suggestions on who Florida's seventh and eighth defensemen are? I mean, right now? Wait a second. The Hockey News wants 10 defensemen.

OK, take a gander at this:

Keith Ballard; Bryan McCabe; Bryan Allen; Ville Koistinen; Jason Garrison; Keaton Ellerby; Dmitry Kulikov; Clay Wilson; Rory Fitzpatrick; Mike Caruso.

Yeah. See what I mean?

No wonder Scott Luce says Kulikov could battle for a roster spot this training camp. If camp started now, we'd be in September. And, he could be in the top six.

There is no way Randy Sexton can be done. Or is he? Remember, July 1 is just the start of the free agency period. There's a lot of time between the start of training camp and today. Although a lot of players are slipping away.

Getting away from the D for a second, Sexton said yesterday that Florida liked what it had as far as forwards go, and that cannot be the truth. Because if it is, he's the only one.

Florida struggled to score last season, and switching Nathan Horton back to wing and adding Steve Reinprecht to one of the top two lines isn't going to cure that. Especially when injuries get factored in, and Florida was relatively spared of major injuries last year, save for the first quarter of the season.

A few weeks ago, Sexton told me that Florida's budget was very close to last year. Not counting the $2 million the Leafs paid to Bryan McCabe, Florida spent about $52 million.

UPDATED Right now, the Panthers are at about $43 million, about $9 million under last year's real money (these are all estimates and depending on bonuses and the like, things can fluctuate).

Florida is also about $13 million under the cap, so there is plenty of room to play around. If Sexton is allowed to spend close to last year's money, there is a lot he can still do.

-- And for the record, aside from Scott Clemmensen, I like the resigning of Radek Dvorak and David Booth. But those were moves that could have been made earlier so it's hard to get too excited about them on the first day of free agency. Although it did buy the Cats some positive Canadian PR as Booth was a hot topic for a while on TSN.

And the Reinprecht move was a solid by Sexton, getting a decent center for a guy who wasn't factoring into Florida's plans much anyway. And the Bouwmeester move was probably as good as Sexton could get on Saturday, although in retrospect, he might have recieved more had the trigger been pulled say on Tuesday when teams were buzzing.

-- Note for those of you who love a lot of left turns, On Frozen Pond will turn into NASCAR Central over the next couple of days as I head to Daytona for a weekend of racing. Will be in the pits starting tomorrow morning, so tell all your racing friends to check in. Will also have hockey stuff as well. Hockey and racing. Is this Carolina?

-- In a surprising turn of events, the Panthers moved up on ESPN's Ultimate Standings, going from No. 98 in the North American pro world all the way up to No. 90! Hey, that's some heavy lifting. The Magazine ranked all 122 teams by using such criteria as 'Bang for the Buck,' ownership, affordability and stadium experience.

Florida did very well on affordability and coaching, not so much everywhere else. That's a shock.

The Panthers, ranked below Phoenix by two spots FYI, did rank above some notable NHL franchises including the Rangers, Oilers and Canadiens. Florida also ranked ahead of the Bills, Redskins, Cleveland Browns (duh) and the New York Yankees. As expected, the Clippers finished dead last. The Angels were ranked first.