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Panthers Ice Dancers are always in the spotlight

by Glenn Odebralski

While the Florida Panthers players get most of the attention in South Florida for their on-ice play, they aren't always in the eye of the fans on a game day at BankAtlantic Center. That title belongs to the Panthers Ice Dancers.

The Panthers Ice Dancers is a unit of 18 women who almost from the time they get to the arena until after the game, are out in the public, acting as ambassadors for the Panthers organization.

Their stage is in Section 127 at the BankAtlantic Center, and squads of eight usually "work" an individual game.

But it's more than just dancing all night for this very diverse group of women, who hail from all over the world. At any point in time during the game they're out visiting suites, conversing with the fans in the concourses, promoting programs the Panthers might have going on and adding to the game presentation and the overall atmosphere.

Although it would be tough being in the public for hours upon hours and upholding the Panthers standard for anyone, it's worth it for them.

Even though the Panthers Ice Dancers will have the busiest night in the League off -- the team is in St. Louis, and the dance troupe doesn't travel -- it's still important to highlight the time and effort these women go into making a Panthers game a special experience.

The following is a small timeline of what a day consists for an Ice Dancer:

Friday, Oct 24, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- Work or school. Besides dancing, all Panthers Ice Girls hold full-time jobs or attend school. As an example, the Panthers Ice Dancer director Nichole is a dance teacher at a private school in South Florida.

4:45-5 p.m. -- The dancers arrive at the BankAtlantic Center for tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks, where their game preparations include curling their hair, putting on make-up, etc.

5:15 p.m. -- The ladies go through their three dance routines for first time, practicing in a small room just off their locker room.

5:30 p.m.-- They take a short break from dancing while continuing to fix their make-up and hair, etc.

5:40 p.m.-- The girls head to their stage by Section 127, where they go over their dance routines with the game presentation staff.

6 p.m. -- The girls get something small to eat, and then put the finishing touches on their wardrobe.

7 p.m. -- The girls hit the concourse to meet and greet fans while waiting to go on for first dance.

7:20 p.m. -- It's time for their first performance of the night.

After their first performance, two dancers go up to the game-presentation area to help the public-address announcer pump up of the crowd. Meanwhile, the other six Ice Girls remain on the stage for the rest of the first period, dancing during stoppages in play and posing for photographs with fans.

8:10 p.m.-- First intermission. All the dancers are out on the concourse, where they take pictures with fans and sign autographs in the Publix Kids Corner outside Section 126.

8:25 p.m. -- It's time for the Ice Girls' second performance of the night. When they're done, two dancers make their way to the game presentation and PA area. Two other Ice Girls patrol the concourse, visiting suites, while the other four Ice Girls remain on stage, dancing for the 20 minutes of play.

9:05 p.m. -- Second intermission. The dancers are back on the concourse, taking pictures and signing autographs throughout the arena.

9:20 p.m. -- Back out on stage for last performance.

For the third period, two girls go up to the PA announce table, while the other six are on stage dancing, throwing T-shirts during stoppages in play, and helping with contests and giveaways.

10 p.m. -- Game over. The Ice Dancers celebrate with the fans following the Panthers' 4-3 victory over the Sharks.

10:30 p.m. -- Time to go home. The girls change back into their street clothes. If you include their full-time jobs or school, it's been a 12-hour day for the Panthers Ice Dancers -- with 5 of them spent on their feet in high-heeled boots.

Glenn Odebralski is the Web Site Coordinator for the Florida Panthers.

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