The NHL's southern-most team traveled a little further south this past week.
For the second consecutive summer, the Florida Panthers traveled to the island of Barbados in the southern Caribbean. While the community outreach on the first trip involved a ball hockey clinic, the Cats took things up a notch on their second voyage to Barbados by hosting the NHL's first ice hockey clinic in the Caribbean.
The Panthers partnered with Icetopia Skating Rink in Wildey, Barbados to host the clinic. Operating since September of 2016, Icetopia provides locals in Barbados with the opportunity to give ice skating a try on an artificial surface.
Making the trek across the Atlantic to head up this event were Panthers defensemen Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen, Vice President, Business Operations Shawn Thornton and Vice President of Broadcasting & Alumni Randy Moller.
The crew of Cats were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the youngsters participating in the clinic took to the game.
"It's pretty cool, pretty unique," said Petrovic of teaching the game on the synthetic surface, "It's a little bit different skating on [the artificial ice]. Some of the kids who come here regularly are actually really good at skating on it. It took myself a couple of minutes just kind of getting used to it."
Petrovic, McCoshen and Thornton helped teach the fundamentals of skating, passing and stickhandling. The final test of the clinic was a shootout against the goalie, Stanley C. Panther.
The recently retired Thornton was thrilled to see the enthusiasm from the kids and found his star pupil at the clinic in a young girl named Jessica King.
"The kids picked it up pretty quickly," said the two-time Stanley Cup Champion. "I think it was the first time actually having a hockey stick in their hands. I had [Jessica] doing trick passes with me."
With the smile never leaving Jessica's face during the clinic, Thornton offered her and her family the opportunity to come to Florida, take in a Panthers game at BB&T Center and learn even more hockey on-ice at the Panthers IceDen.
"This is our second year coming back [to Barbados] and we've had a blast," said Thornton. "They've been so hospitable and we've have had such a good time. We've been treated like gold since we've been here and we're trying to return the favor."
Before heading to Icetopia, the Panthers got to experience some of the natural beauty of Barbados from paddle-boarding the clear blue water of the island to touring the expansive Harrison's Cave. The Cats along with Stanley C. Panther also visited Nightingale Children's Home with gifts in tow.
"It was really special to see their faces when they saw Stanley," said McCoshen, the Springfield Thunderbirds Community Man of the Year. "Just to bring them some joy was really special. Coming [to Icetopia] and teaching them some hockey is just the cherry on top."