Dear Panthers fans,
It's always nice to come back to Detroit.
Even though I grew up in Pittsburgh, I feel like I really grew a lot as a person and as a player in this city. It's all kind of a blur when I look back at it. I was a really young kid when I moved here, just 12 years old. It was almost like another world because of the amount of youth hockey programs.
I was lucky enough to play for Little Caesars, which really helped my career. Glen Murray and the whole Murray family really took care of me. It was an awesome experience. From age 12 to 16, I met some great people, won a pair of national championships and had a lot of fun doing it.
The years I spent here really hold a special place in my heart. And when I look back at my time playing hockey in Detroit, it was clearly one of my biggest developmental periods. At that age, it was a lot of work for my family, but also a big step for me as a I moved closer toward my dream.
Even though I was young, I knew that it was a chance to really focus on hockey. Going into it, I started thinking that maybe this was the way I could make it to the NHL. I remember that even just being at "The Joe" was special. When we weren't playing, we got to watch the Red Wings.
Now when I get to skate around the rink at Little Caesars Arena playing for the Florida Panthers all these years later, it still sort of feels like "The Joe," but obviously the facility is a lot nicer now. Still, it's cool to see the Little Caesars logo on the building. It's a really nice tribute to Mr. Ilitch.
As for the game tonight, we know we need these points. For us, we didn't see ourselves out of a playoff spot at this point of the season. Going into the upcoming break, we want to make sure that we're in one. It's a really tight race in the East and we have a couple games in hand, so these next three games, starting tonight, are really huge.
See you at the rink,