Welcome back to "Unpacking Panthers Uncaged" where we take a closer look into this week's "Panthers Uncaged," presented by Enterprise. Let this serve as your spoiler warning, FLA fans - if you haven't kept up with the cats, check out the latest episode below.
Video: Panthers Uncaged Season 2: Ep 2
WHAT WE LEARNED
1. The Panthers have a home field advantage
When you think of South Florida in January, what immediately comes to mind? White, sandy beaches and a crystal clear ocean? Sunny skies, and temperatures in the 70s?
South Florida may be one of the only places in the US and Canada where running drills outside is not only a comfortable option, it's prefurred.
With COVID protocols still in place, the Florida Panthers took advantage of...well, being in Florida.
Led by strength and conditioning coach Mike Donoghue, the team met for socially distant outdoor workouts at Holiday Park located in Fort Lauderdale.
The Cats ran drills, did push-ups, stretches, and a variety of other exercises to ensure they would be ready for puck drop.
"We're doing three squat jumps, as hard as you can," Donoghue can be heard saying to the guys. While it's sure to be a grueling, condensed season, one thing is certain: the Cats are ready.
Given that they kicked off the season on an eight-game point streak, it looks like these early workouts paid off!
2. Hornqivst gets an "A"
When general manager Bill Zito traded for Patric Hornqivst this offseason,Florida knew the battle-tested veteran forward would bring a level of fiery leadership NHLers can only earn by hoisting Lord Stanley.
"A proven winner and champion, Patric brings a level of competition to our club," Zito said of the acquisition.
Fast forward to Cats Camp 2021, and Hornqvist, donning No. 70, was already making an impact.
In the shortened training camp, Patric caught the eye of teammates and coaches alike with his speed, skill, and remarkable net-front presence. By the end of camp, he earned the privilege of being named one of the team's alternate captain.
"It means a lot, obviously," Patric said of the news. "You get the 'A' on your jersey right away - that means [the Panthers] respect me and I respect them. They have big expectations for me going forward, and I have high expectations [for myself]."
His first few outings as a Panther surely didn't disappoint.
In his Florida debut, the forward notched two points against the Blackhawks. The following game, Hornqvist netted two goals on Chicago's Kevin Lankinen, recording four points in his first two contests as a Cat.
"I came here with fresh blood," Hornqvist said. "I want to make a splash and try to win every game I'm playing."
3. Fans are back at BB&T Center
After what felt like centuries, the time had finally come: BB&T Center re-opened its doors for fans to watch their team live.
The Panthers are one of only a few teams in the NHL allowing fans in for games, admitting around 25% capacity.
To ready the building for the public, the organization took extraordinary measures to keep all those entering - from players to spectators - safe and informed.
In early December, the team announced that BB&T Center had achieved the International WELL Building Institute's WELL health safety rating for facility operations and management. This certification - the first the NHL - requires venues to excel in areas like air and water quality management, cleaning and sanitation processes, emergency planning, and more.
Video: BB&T Center Achieves WELL Health-Safety Rating
The Panthers then went a few steps further, launching the Red Reminders campaign. Featuring prominent signage around the arena to educate visitors on protocols surrounding COVID safety, the Red Reminders aim to keep those in attendance as safe as possible.
Fans entering BB&T Center are subject to strict requirements, such as wearing a face covering at all times, maintaining appropriate social distance both on the concourse and in the stands, and completing a detailed health questionnaire prior to arrival.
In addition, BB&T Center has gone cashless in an effort to minimize contact. By partnering with Venuetize and Bypass, fans now have the convenient ability to order and pay for concession items right from their seat on their mobile device. Once the order is processed and ready, customers can pick up their food at the designated point at the counter, eliminating lines at checkout and keeping everyone as safely distanced as possible.
As this ever-changing season progresses, we invite fans to continue to follow the advice of medical officials and check FloridaPanthers.com regularly for any further team or arena updates.
Did someone order a pizza, with extra GUDA?
GIF OF THE EPISODE
Have yourself a night, Frankie! Nothing like a little overtime drama to close out the first two-game series at home.
Need a refresh? Watch all Panthers Uncaged episodes now on FloridaPanthers.com HERE.