Dear Panthers fans,
It's certainly been a hectic and exciting week.
On the day that I was traded to the Panthers, we were having practice up in Buffalo and were going to head out to Philadelphia right after. With the trade deadline coming up, I had a small bag packed just in case something happened, but hadn't heard anything about getting moved.
That being said, I knew it was possible and wanted to be prepared the best I could. Luckily, the trade call came in before we took off for our road trip, and I was obviously excited when I heard that I'd be joining up with the Panthers.
After that, I went home and started to pack up some more stuff right away. I initially thought I was going to meet the team in Dallas to play in that second game against the Stars on Tuesday, but they wanted me and my family to get to Florida and settle down and get situated instead.
When something like a trade happens, your phone keeps going off. You're trying to respond to everyone that's reaching out, while also talking to the players and coaches on your new team. It was a lot of emotions to go through not just for me, but also for my girlfriend and everyone else.
In speaking with Panthers general manager Bill Zito, he told me that they had their eye on me for a while and there had been interest. He was excited to have me. He knows how I play and felt that I could help this team. He shared his goals and where he thought that I'd fit into them.
Coming to Florida, with the talent they have here and the success they've had as a team this season, that's one thing, but when the top guy is excited to have you and shows interest, that's another thing. Positive phone calls like that from everyone made me that much more excited.
When I finally met up with the team in Tampa Bay, things happened pretty fast.
Arriving to the hotel the night before Thursday's game, I had time to briefly meet a few of the guys, and then our first time on the ice together was at morning skate. At that point, you're just kind of trying to get your feet wet as much as you can, trying to figure out how the team plays.
Heading into the game, I was just trying to keep things simple. It's the same sport, after all. You just want to keep it simple, see what players play like, see what it's all about in each zone. You just want to play easy, play simple, play hard and make the right plays. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win there, but anything can happen in overtime. Now, we push forward and keep going.
Getting my first taste of the Panthers-Lightning rivalry, you could feel the intensity of two good teams going at it. Whether we play them in the playoffs or not, we have a couple games more against them at the end of the season, and every one of those matchups will get more intense.
Following my debut and everything leading up to it, it's nice to have a day here to settle down.
With the travel and everything, there were a couple days there of just trying to get situated, trying to get familiar with the area. Now that I'm on the ice again, it's nice to have a rhythm here and get back into the games, get to know all the new guys. After having practice this morning, the plan is to get some rest this afternoon, have a nice dinner and then get back at it tomorrow.
I'm still trying to talk to everyone. I might have missed a few people, but I'll try to get to everyone by the end of the trip here. I'm just seeing what everyone's all about. Coming in at this time of year, you just want to help out. You also want to create new friendships and new relationships.
The last couple years have been tough when it comes to success, so that itch to get back in the playoffs and play competitive hockey down the stretch is exciting. I've heard nothing but good things about the Panthers and all of these guys, so I'm excited to see what we can do together.
As we keep making our push, I'm also looking forward to seeing all the great fans in Sunrise.
Thanks for the warm welcome,
As told to FloridaPanthers.com's Jameson Olive