Craig Ramsay was born in Ontario, spent much of his young life playing hockey in Buffalo and has coached in a number of places including Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa, Boston and Atlanta.
Yet upon officially being re-hired by the Panthers on Thursday, the 60-year-old sent a simple text message out: “Looking forward to coming home.''
Ramsay jokes that he always told people the only way he would leave Buffalo was “when they put a team in Florida” and after a few years away, he's back in the Sunshine State.
The Panthers announced Thursday that Ramsay – an original member of the Panthers back in 1993 – would be returning as an assistant under new head coach Kevin Dineen. Ramsay was an assistant coach for the first two Florida teams, leaving in 1995 when then-general manager Bryan Murray fired original coach (and Hall of Famer) Roger Neilson.
“I'm coming home and I feel real good about coming back to Florida,'' said Ramsay, who spent seven seasons with the cross-state Lightning, winning his only Stanley Cup there in 2004. “There are some good people and my son lives there. It's a pretty good opportunity for me. We became a Florida group after we had that first adventure with the Panthers. .-.-. This is where I want to be. I want to go home, I like the way [the Panthers] are heading. I like the ideas they have.''
Ramsay spent last season with the Atlanta Thrashers, the only head coaching job he got that didn't start with the interim tag attached to it.
The cancer survivor, who had a major health scare during his first run with the Panthers, was left hanging when the Thrashers were sold and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Despite seeing the Thrashers experiment fail first hand, Ramsay says he believes the NHL can work in the Sun Belt. His early years with the Panthers – and successful run with the Lightning – fuel that confidence.
“I've seen it work in Tampa and I'd love to be part of that again,'' said Ramsay, who still had time left on his contract with the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization. “The fans come out to see an exciting team on the ice and win. In the south, you can do it. I know it.''
One thing Ramsay will help the Panthers in is their power play. Gord Murphy, whom Ramsay coached when Murphy was a defenseman for the original Panthers, is Florida's other assistant coach under Dineen.
As Murphy's penalty kill units ranked sixth in the league last season, the Panthers power play was in a state of perpetual blackout. Florida set a franchise record (in a non-shortened season) for fewest power play goals (35) in a season.
Ramsay hopes the influx of new players will help get Florida's last-place power play a lift.