Our first day saw a Q&A with new Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold. Remember, you can send your questions to anyone in the organization via twitter
or through email
By Derek Fobe for floridapanthers.com
Playing in the National Hockey League isn't always the glamorous life of playing a game you love in front of thousands of people under the bright lights and many more watching at home. Players struggle with many of the same issues their fans do; teething infants, watching what they eat, a demanding boss, and of course the unexpected job transfer to a new city.
Jordan Leopold, the Panthers new defenseman and former teammate of the Panthers' Keith Ballard while at the University of Minnesota, knows all about the struggles of moving a young family because of work.
“What people don’t see or maybe not appreciate in this profession is when you move your family,” Leopold said. “I’ve got three kids; a five year-old girl, a three year-old girl and now a five-month-old boy. In the last year we moved three times and it will be three different schools for my girl. Summer was absolutely chaotic but now it is coming to an end and I’m really looking forward to next week, a chance to get out there and skate.”
The contract signing was announced as a one-year agreement but clearly the Leopolds aren't looking to test free agency again and spend another summer moving instead of enjoying their time together. Besides working to earn the security of a long-term contract, Leopold doesn’t seem to have any expectations about where he’ll fit in as far as defensive pairings or power play time.
“Whereever it may be, I have to earn the spot as a player and that starts in training camp,” the Cats new defenceman explains. “Ideally, the ball is in my court and I have to earn it. Who knows it could be anywhere. I just want to make the playoffs.”
As part of the Jay Bouwmeester trade, Leopold is under no impression he’s expected to replace the former top draft pick.
“I’ve had that question a couple of times,” Leopold laughs. “No, collectively as a ‘D-Group’ we got to find a way to eat up his extra minutes and I’m sure the three or four guys on the back end will be open arms for those extra minutes.”
While Leopold stated unequivocally that he did not feel obligated to sign with the Panthers after they traded for him, it did make a difference later after he briefly entered free agency and fielded interest from other teams.
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“While I didn’t feel obligated whatsoever, it was just always a good fit. We didn't get it done before free agency, and some teams were interested but joining Florida was important to me and it ended up working out," stated Leopold. "It was important for Randy to come back and talk to me after free agency opened. It was always in the back of my mind (the Panthers trading for him) and that he gave me a chance. He believes in me.”
Having briefly enjoyed unrestricted free agency and being able to have some options, Leopold is clearly excited about moving East and joining, “a good team."
"I noticed that when I looked at teams coming up to free agency," Leopold said. "This is a team right on the brink of doing something. Its all about chemistry. We have some potential to do some damage.”
With stops in Calgary (twice) and Colorado, he is thrilled to play in the Eastern Conference and the challenge of facing the conference’s bevy of superstars.
”I played over in the West the whole time (of my career), so playing in the East is refreshing. Some new faces, some new challenges," said Leopold. "But there's a lot of talent no matter where you go.
"I'm up for the challenge, I've had some run-ins with those guys, especially Lecavalier who I met in the Stanley Cup Finals. There's good players everywhere and its all about controlling what I can do and not worry about what they do.”
Leopold’s demeanor sounds of a re-energized worker who has the confidence of someone who is working for a company he believes in and is taking a very workmanlike approach to the upcoming season. He and his family are arriving very early, next week in fact, and he’ll begin skating and working toward training camp which is still almost a month away.
Florida fans are starting to enjoy the new tradition of players like Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and many others who are looking to stay and succeed with the Panthers for the long term. While he’s only on a one-year contract, you can count Jordan and his family in that group as well.
“My family did move a few times last year,” Leopold stated, “but now we feel we are going to be down here for an extended period of time and that is piece of mind for us.”
It is a big season for both the Panthers and the former Hobey Baker award winner, as he and his family are thrilled to move to Florida and even more excited about the prospects of making it a long-term engagement.
Now that is the type of thinking that Panthers’ fans can get excited about.