In just over a month, the Panthers will take the ice in Coral Springs for the start of training camp. Forward David Booth would like to fast-forward to that September day.
``I can't wait to get back, we have a good group here,'' Booth said last week. ``We have a new team, but it's one I think can be in a position to win. This is an exciting time, exciting for everyone.''
The Panthers open training camp Sept. 18.
Booth's last season was trying -- two concussions cut it short. The first concussion cost him 45 games and a possible trip to the Olympics with Team USA. The second ended his season with three weeks remaining.
After his first concussion -- he was knocked cold at open ice by a hard-charging Mike Richards in Philadelphia on Oct. 24 -- Booth tried to force the issue and come back as quickly as possible. Booth suffered from headaches and double-vision and had to shut things down for a bit. Booth returned Jan. 31 and looked a little off.
``I knew it was going to take a while,'' he said. ``It was like having three months off, then trying to jump into it. I think it made me a stronger person.''
On March 25, Booth was knocked out again -- this time along the boards on a clean check by Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek -- just days after he recorded his first two-goal game of the season in Toronto. The Spacek hit ended his season. Booth, who became Florida's highest-paid forward after he signed a six-year deal with the team last summer, ended with just eight goals and eight assists in 28 games.
Booth said he is back to normal, his health the beneficiary of the typically long hockey offseason in South Florida. With no games to come back to, Booth has been able to take it easy and not rush things. On Monday, Booth began his offseason skating regimen in his native Michigan, with his focus on September and a chance to start again.
``This is big. I have a lot to prove,'' he said. ``Last year was like a year off in a sense. I have been working really hard this summer, trying to get back to where I was before. After the concussions, I couldn't do the things I wanted to do. I'm getting my strength back, my quickness. It's coming along.
``I can't wait to put things to use when camp opens in a couple of weeks.''