|Panthers Blogger Cliff Peeke |
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on FloridaPanthers.com for another season, giving the point of view on the Cats from a serious, die-hard fan’s perspective.
A Michigan native who’s played hockey (admittedly average at best) most of his life, Cliff grew up watching Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium. His allegiance changed to the Panthers the moment it was announced South Florida would have a team.
Cliff has played in adult leagues at IncredibleIce and his oldest son (age 25) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 9) is a member of the Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team.Peeke's Points Archive
No Respect…and I’m getting tired of it.
Whether you listen to XM-NHL, or read articles on the internet from The Hockey News, Hockey Buzz, Yahoo Sports, ESPN, etc., you’ve got to have thick skin as a Panther fan. The North American hockey press and radio seem to hold the Panthers in very little regard, and are very critical of most any happenings here in Pantherland. As a fan that invests money and time into this team year after year…negative talk like that can be frustrating to hear. Almost as frustrating as looking up in the standings at the end of November realizing the season is lost again.
It can’t happen again.
Last year, pre-season, I wrote about the unique opportunity the Panthers had to “own this town” by getting off to a great start and holding on to preserve a playoff spot. Much like last year with the Dolphins rebuilding, and the Heat gearing to 2010, the Panthers have another chance to grab the pro spotlight in South Florida. This year, they better take advantage of it.
Maybe we take advantage of the negative press, where we are slotted by some to finish 12th in the conference, and stay under the radar then explode with a great start. If I’m frustrated by what is written or said about our team, shouldn’t the players be? How much losing can be tolerated by them? A few miles east, the Marlins are making a mockery of the so-called experts who pegged them at or near the cellar. Here’s the lowest payroll team (by far), with their third manager in five years, and a potentially uncertain future (which is sad – throw out the lawsuit)…and guess what…they are in the thick of a pennant race. I see a lot of similarities in the make-up of the teams…Panthers and Marlins. The youth on the Marlins have progressed to being a force in the big leagues…and the time is now for the promising youth on our team. This season, we need breakout years from Horton and Weiss, and let’s throw in Olesz. Plain and simple…it’s got to be on their shoulders to carry the offensive load. We’re stacked on defense, and goaltending is solid…those previous year’s problem areas seem to be resolved…now it’s up to the three I mentioned. While beyond that, we may not have the “star” name to complement them (although Stillman ranks high in my book); we should be able to roll out three decent lines, maybe four.
The Marlins big star, Hanley Ramirez, was obtained via a trade that was unpopular at the time…but he developed quickly and made everyone forget that trade. The Marlins accomplishments make no statistical sense…but they play with heart, enjoy being here, and by all accounts have a vital ingredient…CHEMISTRY. Sounds like our ’95-‘96 Panther team…one that thrived on CHEMISTRY. I read comments by GM Martin that sounds like this particular squad may very well possess that trait.
Maybe all this gets settled if we get off to a real jump on the season. If we’re at the top (or at worse, very near) come November 30th, it would accomplish so much. We’d seize a unique opportunity to grab the local spotlight, we’d be better positioned for a playoff run, fan interest would soar, maybe some clarity on the Bouwmeester situation, it would be fun at the arena, and maybe, just maybe…the national media would become convinced that we really do have something special going on down here. It all hinges on the start of the season. No excuses this year…just get the job done.