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Bear Essentials on the Road: Sunrise, FL

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Sunrise near Sunrise...

Bear Essentials on the Road: SUNRISE, FLORIDA (BANK ATLANTIC Center)
I LOVE FLORIDA. My cold is gone. The sky has been blue, the is weather warm and heck, on Wednesday there was even a lunar eclipse for entertainment.

Thursday is a very big day. It starts with morning skate at 11:30 a.m. General Manager Peter Chiarelli is going to participate in an online chat at at noon. And, oh yah, there is a hockey game followed by a plane ride to Tampa.

In case you are wondering, the shootout victory has everyone in Black & Gold in a pretty good mood -- something about five points out of six in the B's first three games on this five game road swing. Now, wouldn't seven out of eight be just fine.

Where are we going?
According to the city’s official website, Sunrise “was incorporated in 1961 by Norman Johnson – an innovative developer whose model homes attracted buyers to what was then the remote western edge of Broward County in southeast Florida.”

The city was originally known as Sunrise Golf Village until 1971 when a referendum was passed that changed the name to the City of Sunrise.

“Over the last decade, the City has fulfilled a commitment to improving residents’ quality of life with approximately $325 million in capital improvements completed or underway... Sunrise has reduced the property tax rate for the past thirteen consecutive years,” says the website.

“Today, Sunrise boasts its own flourishing job market and has emerged as the county’s leader in commerce.”

The City of Sunrise currently has 90,000+ residents and “from humble beginnings…has grown into a sophisticated city of culture.”

Where are we playing?

In 1993, “H. Wayne Huizenga obtained the new franchise for the Florida Panthers Hockey Team,” says, and the search began for an arena.

The Bank Atlantic Center opened in 1998 for that year’s hockey season, after being built in only 26 months.  Architects Ellerbe Becket were selected to design and build the arena, and “more than 600 construction workers set masonry, erected drywall, ran plumbing lines, installed air conditioning and ran miles of conduit for the electrical systems. Nearly 500 workers installed 19,000 theater style cushioned seats, carpeting and tile,” says the site.

“Seventy suites were completed with wet bars, closed circuited monitors and leather upholstery. Averaging over 650 square feet, the suites are the largest in the country for this type of facility."  All together, the arena cost $185 million and sits on 139 acres

The Bank Atlantic Center is 872,000 square feet and holds up to 19,250 for hockey games.

Who are we playing?
Let’s start with a fun story, courtesy of Wikipedia:  “On the night of the Panthers ’95-’96 home opener, a rat scurried across the Florida locker room.  [Scott] Mellanby reacted by “one-timing” the rat against the wall, killing it.  That night, he scored two goals, which [goalie John] Vanbiesbrouck quipped was “a rat trick.”

The Florida Panthers were founded in 1993 after “Blockbuster Video magnate H. Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise for his native Miami in 1992,” says Wikipedia.

Their first season was one of the most successful of any expansion team, as well as the best first year of any NHL team.

The 1996 playoffs were an incredible success for the fourth-seeded Panthers.  They beat the Bruins in five games, knocked off the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in six games, and finally made it past the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in seven, going to the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Colorado Avalanche, however, swept the Panthers to win The Jug.

Florida hosted the 2003 All-Star Game.

The Panthers are most recently noted for one of the scariest accidents in NHL history.  This year, during a February 10 game against the Buffalo Sabres, captain Olli Jokinen received a check that sent his feet flying into the air.  His skate hit forward Richard Zednik in the neck, severing his carotid artery.

Zednik made it off the ice, was rushed to a Buffalo hospital and underwent surgery. He spent five days in the hospital and was released on February 16th.

"I want everyone to know that I am recovering and feeling well and hope to return to the ice as soon as I feel medically fit," said Zednik in a statement. He will address the media on Thursday.

When are we playing?
7:30 p.m. ET.

Who's playing for us?
No word yet. Morning skate is at 11:30 a.m.

Is the game on?
NESN and WBZ will cover the game.

9:24 a.m.
Morning! Not much to speak about, hockey wise, from yesterday. Only about half of the guys worked out, so I don't have an educated guess as to tonight's lineup.

Went to South Beach to see what I could see and ended up in Miami for a little bit...a long, fun, touristy day.

The sky is blue, again, and we are going to get on the bus for the rink in a few. So look for frequent updates from now until the game.

10:28 a.m.
Olli Jokinen was the first man on the ice for Florida.

The rest of the Panthers have joined him and Florida is in the middle of a pretty active morning skate.

Before the Florida coaches arrived, Alex Auld was on the B's bench and said hello to some of his former teammates.

2:04 p.m.
Ok, so I had a busy few hours, but the bottom line is that the team will look, basically, as it did on Tuesday, with Tim Thomas in goal and Bobby Allen, Pettri Nokelainen and Peter Schaefer sitting out.

I got to speak with NESN's Hazel Mae, who is on the trip, and she said that her mom and dad are reading up in Toronto -- so "Hello" to Hazel's family.

In any case, it was my pleasure to do a stand-up (short segment) for her upcoming Buzz show.

But the highlight of that show will certainly be Hazel and Shawn Thornton going to a nature preserve. Shawn said he had a great time and that there were some alligators thrown into the mix.

As always, as nervous as I am taping for TV, everyone on the NESN side is really helpful and encouraging -- either that or they are really good liars. In either case, I thank them!

There was some debate over how the next Bruins Hardhat will be awarded, with the consensus being that Milan Lucic gets to nominate the next person and that he could NOT nominate himself unless the coach stepped in.

Coach insisted that it was a players thing, but seemed flattered to know that he could have a say if the hat should go back to the previous owner should he insist.

All of the media seemed to agree that the "hardhat" was a perfect addition to the room.

I continue to be amazed by the friendliness of everyone at our hotel, from director Gwyn West on down, I have had a really nice stay. I bring this up because Gwyn was complimenting our team's "niceness" when she ran into Johnny Bucyk and I in the hotel restaurant.

Gwyn is also one example of the large number of hockey fans down here in FLA. Our waitress for lunch asked John about his Stanley Cup rings and was pleased to know that Chief had played alongside one of her childhood heroes, Derek Sanderson.

I had a chance to check in on GM Peter Chiarelli's chat over at Shoot on over there if you want a few tidbits about the team and check out Fluto Shinzawa's blog -- I saw him talking to Peter before the chat and they spoke about the possible assignment of Stan Chistov to Providence.

I am going to put up a front page poll on who you folks think will win the hardhat tonight.

3:25 p.m.
Milan Lucic on his criteria for Hardhat status:

"I think it's someone who hits hard. Hitting out there. Blocking shots and doing things that a lot of guys don't like doing...getting into the dirty areas. And [it could] even be a guy who chips in with a couple of goals, too. That is the type of things I look for.

"I am confident that someone in the room is going to step up and wear it proudly."

Lucic on whether he can keep it:
"I still have to give it away. I think I've only seen that once -- and it was a coach's decision, too. Traditionally, you give it away, no matter what. Unless everyone agrees that you should keep it. That's when you keep it."

4:14 p.m.
Claude Julien, speaking of the B's last two third periods:
"I don't think we should make a mountain out of it just because it happened two games in a row. I don't think that is something that we've seen from our team consistently this year. One thing that we do have to recognize, and it is happening a lot around the that teams are coming back. [That's] because teams are all fighting for playoff spots. So, there is no doubt that when there is that much at stake, teams are taking desperate measures to make things happen. It's created some excitement."

6:05 p.m.
The Panthers dance team (Ice Dancers) just finished their warmups and we are waiting patiently for some ice hockey players to hit the rink.

The sight lines in the press box are outstanding and maybe the best of any outside of my seat at the Garden.

The bill of fare just got pretty good, too. "Chief" Bucyk just brought Famous Amos Cookies out of his briefcase. OUTSTANDING, says the Bish!

6:15 p.m.
Just a quick look at the standings shows the Bruins tied with Buffalo and Philadelphia at 66 points.

The B's are just two points behind the New York Rangers who have 68 points...

6:59 p.m.
The Bruins are on the ice.

This what the B's lineup looks like:
Chara-Wideman (sg) Thomas
Wideman-Ward (bg) Auld
Stuart-Hnidy Go Bruins!

I am going over to the Running Recap. JB
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