CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - When the Florida Panthers find themselves in search of inspiration this season, they'll fall back on a book - no, not their playbook - but rather a sports-themed novel called Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life.
Legacy, which was given to head coach Bob Boughner by a friend during the summer, details the profound success of New Zealand's national rugby team, known as the All Blacks. New Zealand, which won back-to-back world cups in 2011 and 2015, has won more than 75 percent of its international matches over the past 100 years.
"I read this book and the light bulb immediately went off," Boughner said after Wednesday's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "I thought it was perfect for this team… For me, it symbolizes culture, an identity and team vision. It's just about doing the right things on and off the ice."
From the pages of Legacy, the rookie head coach has crafted a new cultural backbone for the Panthers, taking many of the book's key themes like integrity, honesty and authenticity and plastering them onto the walls of both the team's practice facility and home locker room at the BB&T Center.
On Monday, Boughner explained the meaning behind these virtues to his players through an in-depth multimedia presentation, using slides and videos to discuss some of the book's more unique phrases such as "leave the jersey in a better place" and "sweep the shed."
"Sweep the shed is sort of symbolic," Boughner said. "After the All Blacks play, two of their most senior players, while 50,000 fans are celebrating outside and the press is gone and family and friends are gone, they actually clean up the dressing room with brooms, everything into a pile. It basically symbolizes that they take care of their own business and take care of the little things. They don't need anyone else to take care of it for them."
Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie chuckled when asked if players would be swapping their sticks for brooms after games this season, but did note that the book's overall message was already taking hold throughout the locker room.
"That will be something we'll keep between the team for now," joked MacKenzie, who is entering his second season as Florida's captain. "I think it's important that we stick together as a family, and whatever it is we decide to do it's going to be for the best of the team. That's for sure."
"At the end of the day you can put words on the wall, but if guys don't buy in it doesn't really matter… The coaching staff is really driving home every day what they expect. They kind of culminated all that together with the little team-building thing that we've done over the last 24 hours. It's all starting to set in and guys are really buying into it."
Although it isn't necessarily required reading, each and every Panthers player is expected to thumb through Legacy's 225 pages over the course of the next few weeks, including defenseman Keith Yandle, who says he's already captivated by the book's teachings.
"What I've read so far, it's awesome," Yandle said. "With an 82-game schedule everything isn't going to be great all year. It's kind of one of those things where you can fall back to our structure or a couple sayings that will help you out and keep you upbeat. It's one of those things that we'll stand by all year."
A 12-year NHL veteran, Yandle says he's come across numerous inspirational credos and quotes on locker room walls throughout his career, but insists that Boughner's message is resonating among players unlike any he's seen before.
"They're up there for a reason," Yandle said, glancing at the writing on the wall. "They mean something to us now, and it's one of those things that we're going to take pride in… I feel like there have always been sayings on the walls where you don't really talk about them and they're just there, but this year we're talking about it and living it. It' a good thing for our group."
Less than two years removed from a 103-point season and playoff berth, the Panthers have admittedly already erased any of negativity from last season's sixth-place finish. And with Saturday's home opener against the cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning on the horizon, the team has already begun to form a new identity, one built around the unity, selflessness and success described within Legacy's pages.
"When you think of the All Blacks and the success they've had, you can tell that they're building an environment where nobody really cares about how many points they get or whether they're the one that scores the goal or gets the big interview after the game," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "What they really care about is how many trophies they've won as a team. That's obviously what we're trying to implement here."
"You can tell that there's a reason for every single word up in our locker room. It's all towards building the right type of people, whether it's on the ice or off the ice…. What we're trying to focus on isn't necessarily going after individual praise and things like that, but rather finding our own motivation and to continue building our own culture."