Just after 10 p.m., Wednesday evening, Stefan Meyer exhaled and said, “What a day.”
Meyer, called up by the Panthers from their American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., somehow made it to BankAtlantic Center for Wednesday’s game against the Canadiens despite the following itinerary:
Rochester to Baltimore. Baltimore to Freeport, Grand Bahamas. Freeport to Fort Lauderdale.
Meyer arrived at Rochester International Airport at 4:30 a.m., and didn’t arrive at BankAtlantic Center until 6:45 p.m. Despite a travel schedule that was interrupted by bad weather up-and-down the east coast, Meyer wouldn’t be stopped from playing his fourth game this season for the Panthers.
“No way I was giving up,” said Meyer, 22, who took five shifts and helped the Panthers get a point in their 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens.
With the Panthers depleted on offense due to injuries to Richard Zednik, Jozef Stumpel, Radek Dvorak, Garth Murray and Rostislav Olesz - as well as Stephen Weiss
sitting out Wednesday with the flu - Meyer got the call to come south.
And the kid from Fox Valley, Alberta, a town of 300 with a grocery store that also serves as a car wash, wasn’t going to disappoint.
“When I got to the airport they told me to go home,” recalled Meyer, who has 16 goals in Rochester. “They told me it was going to be impossible. But I told them I wasn’t giving up. A guy recognized me who runs the floor (for AirTran) and he said, ‘Mr. Meyer, I’ll get you on a plane.’ ”
And so began the journey.
Meyer landed in Baltimore and changed planes. An hour later he was back in the air. But due to wind, rain and thunder storms in Fort Lauderdale, Meyer’s plane circled for nearly two hours.
“Finally, they sent us to Barbados,” he said.
“No, Freeport,” Meyer said with a smile. “Even I don’t know where I was.”
Once in Grand Bahama, Meyer sat on the plane for another two hours.
“They didn’t let us off because of Customs,” Meyer said. “Oh, boy. We sat there another 2 ½ hours. Then we had to wait for a flight plan.”
Finally, Meyer left Grand Bahama and arrived in Fort Lauderdale.
“We were backed up coming in behind four planes,” Meyer said. “I grabbed my bags, got a cab driver, told him the situation, and I made it here at 6:45.”
Meyer arrived at the Panther dressing room having eaten only a bagel the entire day back in Baltimore while he was changing planes. “So (assistant equipment manager) Chris Moody threw me a Red Bull and a powerbar and I was like, ‘OK, I have to pick it up. I’m a professional.’ ”
Despite his long day, Meyer said he’d do it all again for a chance to play with the Panthers.