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Petro's Blog: Standing with Marjory Stoneman Douglas

by Alex Petrovic @AP3392 / FloridaPanthers.com

We were in Vancouver when we heard the news.

There wasn't a lot of us out there for our pre-game skate, but I just remember Lu coming off and telling us about what was happening at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. He was pretty worried about his children and we were all just in shock.

From that point on, we were right there with the rest of the world, just waiting to hear details and hoping for the best because the full story was still unfolding right before our eyes. It's definitely something you'd never expect to hear when you're coming off the ice the morning of a game.

By the end of the day we finally found out everything: 17 people had died in a shooting.

It was hard to be away from home after that, knowing what our community was going through. I kept up with the news as best as I could, scrolling through updates and stories on my phone to see what was happening. We still had to focus on playing hockey, but was nothing compared to what those kids were going through. It was a tough, tough time for everyone.

Then, there was last night.

It was our first game back home since the tragedy, which made it really hard to focus leading up to puck drop. It was nice to see the organization have that kind of special moment to remember all of the teachers and students. They're gone, but hopefully their sacrifice will lead to a better future so that something like this can never happen again.

Watching Lu give his speech, we were just thinking about how sorry we felt for everyone. He was obviously very emotional. You could tell that he really meant what he said, and I think he's going to put a lot of his efforts to doing whatever he can to help out and to make some changes.

Video: Roberto Luongo on love for Parkland, honoring victims

It was really just the perfect speech to give at that time.

We really want to come together as one community. The whole tragedy kind of goes to show that life's a precious thing. We're very lucky to be where we are and we want to use our platform as something to help each other and grow as a community.

I know Lu has a really strong connection to Parkland and, like he said, he's going to spend the rest of his life there when he's done playing hockey. But all of us are a part of this community. When I got here four or five years ago, it was a completely different world to me, but now it's my home for most the year. The people are great and we've got unbelievable fans.

Honestly, it was hard to play after the ceremony and Lu's speech, but we just had to turn that switch. This was still an important game and we needed to win to keep this playoff push going. With everything that had happened and it being our first game back after a long road trip, we had all the excuses in the world to not show up, but you could tell everyone was fighting hard.

The game itself was unbelievable. It all just came together for us. Three or four years ago, or maybe even last season, if were in that same position I can honestly say that we might not have pulled out that win. I think it just shows how much we've grown as a team and the type of focus guys have. It's about sticking with it, digging in and showing some character. We've built up a lot over the last couple years with everyone in here.

It was a special night and we definitely had some angels looking down from above.

After the game, we gave the game ball to the school and then met with their hockey team. It was good to see some of those kids. There was one kid that had been wounded and another one had lost his sister in the shooting.

It was nice to just hang out with them, show them the room and help take their mind off of things. The kids were awesome. They were asking lots of questions and it was great to see things from their perspective. They're going to be playing in the state championship in Fort Myers tonight and we wished them the best of luck.

I think you can take a negative and turn it into a positive, but that's obviously easier said than done. The victim's friends and families are the ones that are suffering right now. I think if we do things like we did last night and pay tribute to them and help them out that hopefully we'll start to see some changes in the future.

We want to raise the energy and raise the hopes here in South Florida.

- Petro

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