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3 posts from October 18, 2013

October 18, 2013

ODD COUPLE: Controversial 'Big Brother' Star Part of Florida Panthers LGBT Night

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Florida Panthers being hockey's first team to host a night for the LGBT community on Saturday has been well publicized.

A secondary promotion held by the team has not been.

At best it seems like an odd pairing.

Aside from the 'You Can Play Equality Night,' fans can pay $25 for a ticket to Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild at BB&T Center in Sunrise as well as a pregame 'meet-and-greet' with Amanda Zuckerman and McCrae Olson from the CBS/Viacom reality show Big Brother 15.

Zuckerman, who resides in South Florida, was one of the Big Brother houseguests who made headlines during last summer's show for making off-putting racial and homophobic comments.

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell taped a public service announcement in support of the 'You Can Play' initiative and its goal to let people of all sexual orientations feel welcome within the game of hockey.

Campbell adds that everyone from all walks of life should feel they can be part of his game.

"It's nice to be able to go about and publicize that everyone is welcome here,'' Campbell said. "I support that. But it's not just about gays and lesbians; everyone is welcome."

Matt Sacco, the Panthers' executive vice president in charge of communications, said the team condemns the things Zuckerman said on the show -- which were derogatory toward African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Asians -- and that Zuckerman is a supporter of LGBT rights and wanted to be part of the team's equality night.

Zuckerman attended Florida's game on Thursday and told the Miami Herald she was trying to be funny and now regrets the way things came out. Zuckerman has made similar comments to news outlets since leaving the show.

"Unfortunately I have a crass sense of humor and that doesn't excuse some of the things I've said because they've hurt people,'' Zuckerman said. "I'm ashamed they came out of my mouth to be honest. I'm a huge advocate for the gays, parades, purple, black, green, yellow; it doesn't matter to me. I love people for who they are.

"People in the house knew that but I was portrayed differently which is unfortunate. All I can do now is apologize and move on from there. We're excited to be part of equality night.''

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Friday that he commends the NHL and the Panthers for taking steps to push the 'You Can Play' idea by hosting a special night Saturday.

"I'm a huge believer in diversity in this world,'' Dineen said. "We are a family that has strong faith and beliefs but we're very understanding of every situation and that's our world now. .-.-. Our world has changed. We are very respectful of that and extremely proud to be part of an organization, the NHL, that is on board with diversity and 'You Can Play'.''


CLEMMENSEN RETURNS TO MINORS: Panthers Send Goalie Back to San Antonio ... Wild Comes to Town

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Florida's three-goalie experiment didn't last long at all as Scott Clemmensen was sent back to the Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Clemmensen, 33, missed all of training camp after having minor knee surgery in September. He has started one game in the AHL this season and relieved Jacob Markstrom in a loss at Tampa Bay last week. Markstrom is now backing up Tim Thomas.

"This is a flexible situation,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's important for Clemmensen to get some games. We need depth at every single position and a goalie is no good if he's sitting every day.''



When, Where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Florida; WQAM-560

The series: Minnesota leads 9-3-1

The game: The Wild has lost two straight and has been outscored 7-2 in the process. Florida has only beaten the Wild twice in Sunrise (2001 and 2010). Center Nick Bjugstad is a former prep Mr. Minnesota hockey winner and faces his hometown team for the first time.

BERGENHEIM STILL OUT: Dineen Says He's 'Worried' About Panthers Winger

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

By late last week it appeared Sean Bergenheim's road back from injury was close to being over. Bergenheim's work load in practice had increased and he was working with Florida's top forwards for the first time this season.

Bergenheim's return date is now anyone's guess.

On Friday, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said he "worried" about Bergenheim's career as the 29-year-old remains working with a physical therapist in Toronto whom Bergenheim's agent recommended.

"I'm worried about the guy first as his coach and I worry about him as a player,'' Dineen said. "It's been an extremely long time off. I understand this is a tough game we play. He needs to be physically involved, be active. I'm worried he's going to come back and he can't feel his way back into the NHL.

"I have guys here with bumps and bruises and are playing hurt every night. You're not going to feel 100 percent. He needs to get the medical situation straightened out. Once he does, he can be a valuable member of our team.''

Bergenheim had two surgeries in the past year to repair his hip and a sports hernia which are said to be related. Although he reported to camp on time, Bergenheim has been brought back slowly and started full practice sessions in the past two weeks.

Dineen said last week that Bergenheim was to see his surgeon when the team traveled to Nashville and perhaps receive medical clearance to play. Instead, Bergenheim left the team to work with a specialist in Ontario for what was supposed to be five days.

On Friday, Dineen said Bergenheim would remain away from the team for at least a few more days.

"He'll be back toward the end of the week,'' Dineen said. "This is something he believed could help him out. It's been an extremely long rehabilitation process.''

Bergenheim was part of a contentious medical grievance with the Panthers last year and when he won, he was granted his entire 2012-13 salary of $2.75 million.

The Panthers contended that Bergenheim was injured in Finland as he played in two games during the NHL lockout; Bergenheim's doctors said he had a pre-existing condition dating to his 2011-12 season with the Panthers.

Although both sides have said there is no ill will from the hearings and that it was simply the cost of doing business, it appears Dineen is losing his patience with Bergenheim.

"He's an extremely long time removed from the surgeries,'' Dineen said. "He needs to come back in a healthy frame of mind ready to help the hockey team.

"We've waited an extremely long time and we've been patient and very understanding. We continue to be that way. We just need him to come back and give us some of the energy we know he can and stop worrying about anything about playing hockey.''

Of course, if Bergenheim returns in good health, the Panthers would love to have him back in the lineup. In his one full season with Florida in 2011-12, he scored a career-high 17 goals in 62 games.

Bergenheim, who scored nine playoff goals for the Lightning in 2011, had three goals and three assists in Florida's seven-game series against the Devils in 2012. Bergenheim is scheduled to make $2.75 million both this season and next after signing a four-year deal with the Panthers on July 1, 2011.

"He's been gone so long I haven't given it much thought,'' Dineen said. "We had a snapshot in training camp that he was getting close. Now it's a prolonged thing. He's totally off the radar right now until he becomes what I consider a viable option.''

Photo by JOE RIMKUS JR./Miami Herald Staff