SUNRISE, Fla. - In times of tragedy, it's often hard to find the right words.
The Florida Panthers honored the 17 victims of last week's horrific shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland - located just 13 1/2 miles from BB&T Center - on Thursday night prior to their matchup against the Washington Capitals.
In warmups, players from both teams donned Stoneman Douglas' hats, while the Panthers also sported "MSD" elbow patches and helmet decals bearing the school's logo - a tradition they will continue throughout the remainder of the season.
Prior to puck drop, a video tribute remembering the victims of the tragedy was followed by an extended moment of silence in which 17 individual spotlight's bearing the deceased's names slowly faded away one by one. As the camera panned towards Florida's bench, players were visibly shaken, many burying their heads into their gloves to combat their emotions.
Then, Roberto Luongo grabbed a microphone.
As "Luuu!" chants rained down from the stands, Luongo staked onto the ice, stopping just a few feet away from the bench. A longtime Parkland resident and father of two, the 38-year-old goalie took a deep breath before making one final address, the arena's lights highlight his teary eyes.
"I just want to start off by saying that I live in Parkland," Luongo said, his voice growing from shaky to stern.
"I've been living there for the past 12 years. My wife was born and raised in that area. My kids go to school in Parkland. When I'm done playing hockey, I want to spend the rest of my life in Parkland. I love that city.
"Last week was Valentine's Day. I was in Vancouver. Obviously, we all know happened. It was hard for me to be on the West Coast and not be able to get back home and protect my family. No child should have to go through that. It's terrible. It's time for us as a community to take action. It's enough. Enough is enough. We got to take action.
"To the families of the victims, our hearts are broken for you guys. There's not much to say. It's heartbreaking. You guys are in our thoughts. We've been thinking about you every day constantly for the last week. Just to know that we're there for you if you guys need anything. You'll be in our prayers. Let's try and move on together. Last, just two more things.
"Just to the teachers of the school, you guys are heroes protecting your children. Some of them didn't make it, trying to protect children. That is truly what a hero is. Those people need to be put on a pedestal for the rest of their lives.
"The last thing I want to say is since last Wednesday, I've been watching the news and I've been seeing what the kids from Stoneman Douglas have been doing. I am very, very proud of you guys. You guys are brave. You guys are an inspiration to all of us. At the end of the day, you guys are what's giving us hope for the future.