A few dozen fans stopped by the entrance to the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise on Thursday, paying their respects and creating a makeshift memorial to the four former Florida Panthers who have died within a span of a week.
Enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto condo on Aug. 31. Former Florida defensemen Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei and Alexander Karpovtsev perished in Wednesday's plane crash that killed all but one member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in Russia.
The event gained steam throughout the day after 20-year-old Amanda Alvarez created a Facebook event page to invite friends to the arena.
The Broward College student brought two dozen roses and a pair of cardboard signs with pictures of the former Panthers on them. Fans who gathered left remarks on the signs taped to the windows of the arena. Some lit candles and left them on the ground. One fan wore Salei's old practice jersey.
“I just thought this would be for me and my friends, but it spread quickly,'' Alvarez said. “I have a passion for the Panthers, and I've been following them my whole life. I just can't imagine what the families of these players are going through right now. Their wives, their children. It's such a shame.''
The Panthers didn't have anything to do with the event, but made sure it wasn't to be stopped.
The team says it will honor those players in the coming weeks. The Panthers will collect donations from fans who attend Florida's rookie camp and preseason games for a scholarship fund set up for Belak's two young daughters.