By Nikki Ghorpade, University of Miami
The temperature in Sunrise is 80s, but in the BB&T Center, it was much cooler despite the excitement for the pre-season opener on Monday afternoon. This was the scene at the BB&T Center as the Florida Panthers took on the Nashville Predators in their first game of a double-header.
The “Hunt for Red October” commenced as the Panthers took the first face-off of a seven-game preseason schedule that culminates with a showdown against cross state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lighting, at home on Saturday, Sept. 28. The real season kicks off on Oct. 3 with a trip to Dallas to face the Stars, and the real draw for fans will be the home opener against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on a Friday night, Oct. 11.
The fans in attendance were given a thrill to kick off the pre-season slate as Florida came back from a 3-1 deficit to score five unanswered to win going away, 6-3.
The Zender family came dressed in Panthers’ regalia, including a toddler size Cats jersey for their 1.5-year-old daughter, Emily. The Zenders, originally from Germany, came to South Florida five years ago, but have been fans of hockey, and the Cats, for much longer. Manuela Zender says that before they moved, she made sure that there was a hockey team she could support in the area, otherwise the move would be a no-go. The family hails from Cologne, Germany where former Panthers’ star, Bill Lindsay, played for Kolner Haie in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. This connection sealed the deal for Manulea becoming a Panthers fan.
During one of the family’s first games at the BB&T Center, when Emily was only 3- months-old, Manuela sported a Kolner Haie jersey and while they walked throughout the arena, Bill Lindsay spotted her, gave a her a big toothy grin and took a picture with the family. Lindsay is in his third season as the Panthers’ television analyst for FOX Sports Florida, with the Zender Family as his avid followers.
Emily Zender may be a first generation American, but she is a second-generation Panthers fan. When asked if she wants to be hockey player one day she yells “Panthers!” and her mother replies, “She can be whatever she wants, as long as she’s a Panthers fan.”
In the game, the Panthers came back from an early deficit and also showed they can bring physicality to the game by laying some bone-crunching hits and dropping the gloves against the opponents. Both Steven Pinizzotto and Tony Turgeon displayed their pugilistic skills in brawls with various Predators players, which got the fans up from their seats and wanting more Nashville blood.
After an early Nashville goal (44 seconds in) the Panthers got on the board thanks to the man advantage. Forward Scottie Upshall scored on a powerplay with assists from his defensemen Colby Robak and Erik Gudbranson, respectively, six minutes into the contest. Nashville managed to put up two more goals after the Panthers first blood, to hold the 3-1 advantage after one period of play but from the second period onwards, goals rained in from Panther sticks. Gudbranson scored two of his own, and Upshall managed to card a goal midway through the third period, helping seal the deal for Florida and bringing and auspicious feeling for the fans. Tryout forward Brad Boyes stuffed home a goal from the doorstep with seven and a half minutes to play and Quinton Howden netted the final goal of the game with 4:21 left on the clock.