Forward Stefan Meyer said his phone “just about blew up” Monday when word reached his hometown outside Medicine Hat, Alberta, that he was headed to South Florida and a stint with the Panthers.
“It was smoking,” smiled Meyer at Panthers practice Tuesday afternoon at IncredibleIce after arriving from the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
And, really, who could blame the folks back home for being a little excited? Some 90 minutes from Medicine Hat in the south western part of Saskatchewan sits Meyer’s hometown of Fox Valley.
Population? About 300. And the town of Fox Valley? Well, for starters, there’s no traffic light.
“The grocery store is the car wash,” Meyer said. “There was no artificial ice in town growing up. I didn’t play organized hockey until I was 14.”
Meyer was born in nearby Medicine Hat because, as he put it, “I couldn’t have been born in Fox Valley because I would have been born in a barn.” The whole town followed the Medicine Hat Tiger hockey team in the Western Hockey League. In fact, Meyer said, the locals usually made the trek each weekend to Medicine Hat to watch the Tigers.
“Everyone had season tickets,” he said. “If you went (to Fox Valley) Saturday night you could have stole everything (because) there wasn’t one person there.”
But Fox Valley will become Panther fans Wednesday night if Meyer makes his NHL debut. With forwards David Booth and Rostislav Olesz expected to miss Wednesday’s game at BankAtlantic Center against the Flyers, Meyer could find himself in a Panther uniform.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Meyer, selected with the 55th overall selection by the Panthers in the 2003 Entry Draft. “I grew up in a town of 300 people. It’s such a closeknit community and everyone has been really supportive.”
Meyer said when Rochester Americans coach Randy Cunneyworth told him he was heading to Florida, “My heart was in my throat.” When asked how he might feel in a Panther uniform Wednesday night, Meyer said, “I think a lot of things will fly before my eyes.”
Meyer was called up from Rochester along with center Kamil Kreps. Recalled for the second time this season, Kreps had a goal and five assists in Rochester. Meyer had a goal and four assists.
Meyer grew up on a farm in Fox Valley. His father, Warren, harvests wheat and barley and also works in the oil industry. “This one is for him,” Meyer said.
Booth did not skate Tuesday and will not play Wednesday or Friday against Buffalo as he recovers from a stiff neck sustained in Saturday’s game in Ottawa…Olesz (hand) skated for 30 minutes Tuesday before going to see a hand specialist. He is not expected to play Wednesday…Defenseman Noah Welch is considering options regarding his separated shoulder…Defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee) is day-to-day.