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We are on the plane at an airport just outside Helsinki, about to leave this cold, hockey-loving land behind us, so I thought now would be a good chance to reflect on what has been an important week for our franchise.
With your Panthers beginning the season in exciting fashion, going 1-1 against the Western Conference finalist Chicago Blackhawks – including an incredible shootout win on Friday night, there’s no question 2009-10 is going to be an exciting season for Cats fans.
We learned a lot on our trip overseas. We found out that this team we have in Sunrise is very much that – a team. We learned that Bryan McCabe has embraced his role as an active and verbal captain, that Randy Sexton – who we just announced yesterday as the club’s new GM – has constructed a team built on a foundation of character, that Pete DeBoer continues to push for the best out of all of his players, that Tomas Vokoun’s determination in the offseason has already had a positive affect on his play, that veteran Cory Stillman is willing to do anything – throw body checks, set screens, make plays – to erase the heartbreak of last year, that this young group of forwards including Stephen Weiss
, David Booth, Michael Frolik, Nathan Horton and others, may in fact be ready to take this grand opportunity and run with it.
We saw some new faces, namely Ville Koistinen, Jordan Leopold and Steve Reinprecht, make a good first impression on their new fans. Koistinen completed a storybook tale on Friday, scoring a goal and the shootout winner in front of his native crowd. Reinprecht impressed with his toughness, filling the second line center hole that was previously gaping, and Leopold, among others, fought through the flu to play almost 25 minutes on Friday night. And that’s just a few of the stories.
I would never claim to be a hockey expert. I’ve worked in this sport for many years, but I certainly can’t break down forechecks and power play systems like Pete DeBoer. But I know this: hockey is a sport that thrives on emotion. Emotion from its fans, its players and its coaches.
So, in spending the past week watching our teamwork through its training, exhibition schedule and two games against Chicago, I have to admit, I was inspired.
I felt the passion, the emotion and the commitment these players and coaches have to turning the corner for this franchise and reaching the goals that they have set. That got me excited, to get back to the States and get back to work. We are inside one week to Opening Night Oct. 10, and while I enjoyed the four games we played in front of the passionate and knowledgeable Finnish crowds, it’s time for our fans to get a chance to see our team live. It’s time for South Florida to embrace these players and coaches who are willing to sweat and bleed and sacrifice to get this team where it needs to be. Quite simply, it’s time to be inspired. Thanks for reading and go Panthers.