The Florida Panthers took a well-deserved night off from chasing pucks to knock down some pins with premium suite holders, club members and corporate sponsors during a fun-filled night of bowling at Strike 10 in Hallandale Beach on Wednesday night.
"The good thing hockey has to offer is our players have great personalities. It's good for our fans to get to see them, get to know them," Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko said of the event. "It's a little camaraderie for the team, and the guys get together and really help out the business side of the organization."
Throughout the evening, fans were given the opportunity to bowl head-to-head with some of their favorite players, shoot a game of pool or even snap a few memorable pictures in a nearby photo booth.
“It’s up close and personal,” said forward Shawn Thornton, who became somewhat of a pool shark during his tenure in American Hockey League. “It’s not us on the other side of the glass. (Fans) can really get a taste of who we are and what our personalities are like.
“Everyone’s here, everyone’s in a great mood. I think that speaks volumes to the type of team we have. Everyone’s happy to be here and happy to do what they can to help grow the game in this area.”
Andrew Calloway, a first-year premium ticket holder from Boynton Beach, was bowled over by everything Wednesday’s event had to offer, from a chance to rub elbows with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr to an impromptu conversation with last year’s leading scorer Jonathan Huberdeau.
"You see them out there [on the ice] working, doing their thing. It's nice to interact with them and get to know them on a little more personal level. So buying season tickets is one of the best investments I've ever made," said Calloway, who already plans on renewing his season tickets.
"We just got done talking to [Jonathan] Huberdeau one-on-one. It was nice. It's more private, not hitting them up for a bunch of autographs. Everybody has been cool."
Having reached the pinnacle of their profession, the majority of the Panthers players in attendance weren’t ashamed to admit that, despite being in peak physical condition, their talents didn’t necessarily translate to bowling.
“I thought we did pretty good,” said defenseman Alex Petrovic, whose score of 120 was enough to outdo most of his teammates. “Our group beat (Al) Montoya’s group I’m pretty sure. It was fun and I think everyone here had a good time. It’s nice to see the fans personally and hangout with them. They give us a lot of support.”
And although Petrovic admits that no one will likely remember who won or lost during their eventful evening on the lanes, the night served as way to not only increase the organization’s visibility in the community, but more importantly as a way to give back to those who have already embraced it.
For the fans whose voices have grown hoarse from willing the Panthers to victory with their deafening cheers, Wednesday night gave players a chance to return the favor.
“They cheer us on in the games. I'm cheering them on when they bowl,” said Petrovic.
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