FORT LAUDERDALE – Anthony Stolarz is hard to miss.
In addition to being a towering figure between the pipes at 6-foot-6, the Florida Panthers goaltender sports unique red pads that gobble up glances nearly as much as opposing shots.
But, more than anything, it’s been his play that’s turned heads.
Joining the Panthers on a one-year contract this past summer, the 30-year-old veteran has been providing steady starts in support of all-star Sergei Bobrovsky, posting an 8-5-2 record with a 2.11 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 16 appearances this season.
He’s also saved 4.6 goals above expected, per MoneyPuck.com.
“I want to be someone the team can count on when my name’s called,” Stolarz said.
Following a recent practice at the Baptist Health IcePlex, I had a chance to catch up with Stolarz to talk about his transition to the Panthers, how he spent his downtime during the break and more.
OLIVE: How much have you been enjoying your first season in South Florida?
STOLARZ: Things have gone really well. You get here and the team was extremely welcoming. You could tell right away that this was a great group of guys. You can see why they had the success they had last year when you come in and see how hard they work. It kind of makes you just want to up your game that much more to match their intensity and compete. Obviously if you look at our record, it’s pretty darn good. It’s just the beginning, but we’re excited for the home stretch.
OLIVE: Speaking of last season’s success, how much did the possibility of joining the reigning champions of the Eastern Conference influence your decision to sign here?
STOLARZ: It absolutely did. The last few years I’ve been on teams that were kind of near the bottom of the league. To have the opportunity to come to a team that’s had a lot of success lately meant a lot for me. At the end of the day, it’s your dream to compete for the Stanley Cup. That’s one of the reasons I signed here. I thought this team was extremely talented and was hoping that I could be a piece of that puzzle.
OLIVE: Even before your first start as a Panther, you caught the attention of fans in the preseason with your eye-popping pads and chrome mask. After you signed your contract, how quickly did the wheels start turning on what your gear would look like?
STOLARZ: First, I have to say that Teddy (head equipment manager Teddy Richards) reached out to me like a day or two after I signed and sent out some fresh gear for me: workout shirts, shoes, sandals, bags, skate guards and stuff like that. For a team to do that, it meant a lot to me to rep my new team while I was working out in the summer. As for my [goalie] gear, I knew I wanted to stay color based. I called Tally (goaltending coach Rob Tallas) to make sure that was OK, and he was on board with it. I just started going through the website designing with different colors and this is what I came up with. I’m pretty happy with it.