MONTREAL -- Jonathan Huberdeau grew up about 25 miles away from where the Canadiens play yet didn't get to see many games in person.
Tickets are hard to get in Montreal as games are always sold out and prices on the secondary market are extremely high.
So, believe it or not, Huberdeau attended more Florida Panthers home games as a kid than Canadiens games in Montreal.
The Saint-Jerome, Quebec, native and his family spent time snowbirding in South Florida -- and being hockey fans, they found their way to the arena in Sunrise to check out whomever was in town. Sometimes it was the Canadiens.
"We were always there for Christmas,'' Huberdeau said.
On Tuesday, the Panthers' rookie winger had a pretty good view of things at the Bell Center as he played in his third NHL game on ice he was well accustomed to seeing -- from television, anyway.
"I grew up watching the Canadiens, so to play here is really cool,'' Huberdeau said after Florida's 4-1 loss in Montreal on Tuesday.
Huberdeau's parents brought their Winnebago down to South Florida as they've followed their son's progress through training camp and watched his NHL debut last weekend at the BB&T Center.
Instead of driving north like they usually do, they flew to see Jonathan's second game against Ottawa and then Tuesday's game against the Canadiens. Huberdeau said he had a lot of ticket requests for friends and family for both games as Ottawa is about a two hour drive from Montreal.
"They've done a lot of traveling and have supported me a lot,'' Jonathan said. "I thank them a lot for that. It's big for them.''
Said coach Kevin Dineen: "Any French player born in Quebec is excited about that first game in Montreal. And it is for his family as well. They get to see the road taken, the path to here, it's special.''
The Panthers have high hopes for the third pick in 2011 as Huberdeau made a brilliant splash in his debut by scoring a goal on his first shot before assisting on two more goals.
Tuesday, Huberdeau had a great scoring chance get snuffed out by Montreal goalie Carey Price. Hubderdeau gets his second chance at the Senators Thursday night as Ottawa visits Sunrise for the first time this season.
Dineen started Huberdeau on Florida's second forward line with veterans Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev. He says the organization's decision to have him miss last season and spend another season with his junior team in New Brunswick was the right one as Huberdeau matured as well as got a little bigger and stronger.
"I'm always stepping on the scale hoping it's going one way and when Jonathan steps on it I hope it goes the other,'' Dineen said.
"With Jonathan, the difference between an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old is huge. You see a difference in maturity and he had that extra year to develop as a person and a player. He wasn't part of that important first step of us making the playoffs, but he's going to be with us for a long, long time.''