Playing in Florida is a homecoming for Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins on several fronts.
“I swung through here twice as a player and spent the first eight years of my life up near Tampa. Lots of connections to the state and this organization,” Eakins stated.
Eakins was born in Dade City, Florida which is about 35 miles north of Tampa. He also played for the Panthers from 1993-95 and again in 1997-98 for a total of 41 games.
“I think the one thing I remember the most here is, we didn’t have great teams but boy the teams stuck together and we checked really well. It was something we took great pride in.”
Roger Neilson was the head coach during his first stint with the Panthers. Eakins and Neilson go way back as the Oilers coach was a disciple of Neilson’s hockey school in Peterborough, Ontario at age 12.
“(Playing for) my second father, Roger Nielson, was a special thing as well.”