BOSTON – The walk from their condominium on the north side of town is only about 10 minutes from the arena, and these days, the hockey players from Florida are able to make that stroll in the shorts and sandals they've grown accustomed to wearing year round
The wardrobe will soon change.
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was the first member of the Panthers to be traded to the Boston Bruins, the shot blocking German sent north at last year's trade deadline. He signed a long-term contract with the team during the offseason. In June, he was joined by former teammates Gregory Campbell and Nathan, two wingers who had spent their professional career playing in the Panthers organization.
Seidenberg has been helping his old pals adjust to life in a new city – and to the pressures that come with playing in a true hockey market.
“I think they are definitely excited to get started here,'' said Seidenberg, who played in 62 games for the Panthers last season. “They're excited about the change, the pressure.''
The three players all live in the same building and often walk to and from the Garden together. Horton is the big name among the Florida Bruins, coming to the team in a big trade prior to the NHL Draft. General manager Dale Tallon also sent Campbell to the Bruins. Defenseman Dennis Wideman came in return as did the 15th overall pick in the draft.
The Horton/Campbell deal was not necessarily considered a blockbuster although it was one of the few major offseason NHL trades. Campbell was surprised by the move especially since he had always said he enjoyed playing in Florida and wanted to stay.
Horton being moved, however, had been talked about quietly for the past few years. The third overall pick of the 2003 draft, Horton's work ethic had been questioned and it was wondered if he would ever hit his potential in Florida. When he told new general manager Dale Tallon that he wouldn't mind a change of scenery, Tallon quickly started making calls and a deal was struck in Boston.
In Florida, Horton was looked upon as a talented power forward who could be much better than he was; in Boston, Horton is expected to flourish and help a Bruins team that struggled to score last season. Some feel Horton may be the missing piece that can help Boston reach the Eastern Conference finals after being beaten in the semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
Horton scored a career-high 27 goals in 2006-07. His goals dropped to 22 in 2008-09 when coach Pete DeBoer moved him to center. Horton was on pace to have a career year last season, but he missed 17 games after suffering a broken leg on an errant shot from Seidenberg on Jan. 21. Horton still ended up scoring 20 goals – third most on the team.
“It's been tough, ever since I was in Florida, not winning,'' said Horton. “It was a long time. It's nice for a change I think. I hope it all goes well. [Tallon and I] both knew it was time for a change and I think it's worked out well. .-.-. I think everyone underachieved. When you don't win, don't make the playoffs, it's not fun. It was a tough seven years, but it's where I started, where I started my family. It will always have a thing for Florida.''
On Saturday, Horton and Campbell played against the Panthers for the first time in their careers – with Horton getting the second goal of the game.
DeBoer has coached against former players, but he knew Horton and Campbell very well as the three have a long history. DeBoer and Horton are both from Dunnville, Ontario, and DeBoer coached Campbell not only in Florida, but in juniors as well.
“It's part of hockey obviously, and you get used to it the longer you're in it,'' said DeBoer, who warmly greeted Horton and Seidenberg near the Florida locker room as they were leaving Saturday morning. “I like both of those guys, have known them a long, long time.''
Campbell, like Horton, is excited to take on the new challenges playing in an Original Six hockey market poses – although there is decidedly much more pressure on Horton than there is on the fourth-line Campbell. Neither player has been to the NHL playoffs and if they miss it again this year, there will be much more consternation than there was during their run in South Florida.
“This is uncharted waters for me. I spent a long time in Florida and didn't know what to expect here,'' said Campbell. “But I'm excited. I'm really embracing the opportunity. The trade was a shock, although my contract was up. I guess if it was going to happen, that was the time. I didn't expect a trade, especially to Boston.''
SATURDAY'S PRESEASON GAME – PANTHERS 3, BRUINS 2 (SO): The Panthers rallied from a 2-0 deficit after getting goals from Radek Dvorak and Kenndal McArdle in the third period.
Goalie Scott Clemmensen played the entire game, making 25 saves – including two in the shootout. Florida got goals from Mike Santorelli and Cory Stillman on the only shots the Panthers needed.
Boston got its goals in the second period from newcomers Tyler Seguin (second overall pick in 2010) and Horton. The Panthers (3-0-0) conclude their four game exhibition road trip Monday in Montreal.
The Panthers have beaten the Bruins (1-1-1) twice this preseason.
Bos Tyler Seguin (1:20 2nd) from Chara
Bos Nathan Horton (11:51 2nd) from Krejci
Fla Radek Dvorak (2:20 3rd) from Reasoner, Paetsch
Fla Kenndal McArdle (8:46 3rd) from Reasoner
SO: Cory Stillman (Santorelli also scored)
Bos Tuuka Rask 2-28; SO: 2-2
Fla Scott Clemmensen 2-25; SO 1-3
Bos 0-5 (9:43)
Fla 0-4 (7:59)