Panthers vet Game 3

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Harold Terens had a spine-tingling start to what he expects to be a thrilling next three weeks when he stepped on the ice before the singing of the national anthem prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers at Amerant Bank Arena on Sunday.

The 100-year-old World War II veteran received a loud standing ovation from the crowd while being honored as part of the Panthers’ Heroes Among Us program, which has been showcasing military heroes from the area since 2013. That Terens’ moment in the spotlight came on the day before Memorial Day in the United States added to the significance for him.

“I’m so excited,” Terens said. “I’m in awe of everything that’s happened to me. When I say the best is yet to come, that’s today.”

Terens served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942-45, including deployments in France, England, North Africa, and Russia. In 2019, as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, he received the French Legion of Honor, which is France’s highest national decoration bestowed upon military and civilians.

Terens, who arrived in Normandy 12 days after the D-Day, plans to return for the 80th anniversary next month and will celebrate it in a special way by marrying his 96-year-old fiancé Jeanne Swerlin while there.

“We’re going to be on Omaha Beach and there are 9,836 kids, 21 years average age, they’re all buried there,” Terens said. “I’m going to invite them all to my wedding. I’m a spiritualist. I’m going to invite them all and I know they’re going to enjoy it.”

Terens is a longtime hockey fan who lives in Lake Worth Beach, Florida now, but grew up in New York and remembers going to watch the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“I was married to a lady 70 years and our first date was at Madison Square Garden on New Years Eve, the Rangers against the Boston Bruins,” he said. “She never heard the word hockey before.”

Terens, whose military service was also to be highlighted during a television timeout during the second period Sunday, called being honored at Game 3, “a kickoff for the next three weeks.” He and Swerlin leave Thursday for Paris to begin a series of events leading up to the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.

“We’re going to Paris and I’m going to lecture at a high school in Paris,” Terens said. “The second day, I’m going to be one of the honorary veterans at the Arc de Triomphe. I think President (Emmanuel) Macron will do the honors. I met him five years ago when he pinned the French Legion of Honor on me, so he and I are friends.”

It will be Terens’ fourth trip back to Normandy, including meeting President Bill Clinton at the 50th anniversary in 1994, President Barack Obama at the 70th in 2014 and President Donald Trump at the 75th in 2019.

“I hugged (first lady) Melania Trump and shook President Trump’s hand,” he said. “This time, I’ll hug (first lady) Jill Biden and I’ll let [Swerlin] hug President Biden. I give her equal time.”