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VanMurph's View: Almost There

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Murphy and Vanessa Burch
Murphy Burch is back for his second season of blogging. He will be sharing his views on the Panthers during the year, along with fellow fan blogger, Cliff Peeke (Peeke's Points).

Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.

VanMurph's View Blog Archive

With the North American portion of the pre-season completed, the Panthers packed their bags and boarded a plane bound for Helsinki. After a few practices and a game against Tampere, they will play one more warm-up before facing the Blackhawks in a “Home-and-Home” 5,200 miles away from the BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers logged a ton of miles during this year’s training camp, and they played a hectic pre-season schedule. After gathering in South Florida for physicals, our guys headed up to Nova Scotia for a brief stay before playing games in Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas, and Sunrise. Now, in Finland, the travel-weary Panthers have had a few days to prepare for their tune-up contests against Tampere and Jokerit. A little less than 48 hours later, the games start to count…Back-to-back contests against Chicago would be a tough enough test for any team, but to play them in Europe, after a grueling pre-season, is going to be a monumental task for the Cats.  Personally though, I’m confident they’ll be up to the challenge. They skated well, stayed relatively healthy, and played an up-tempo brand of hockey in training camp, posting a record of 4-3.

The only appearance of the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center during the pre-season was an action-packed back end of a home-and-home series against the Dallas Stars. Facing Marty Turco and an AHL-laden lineup, the Panthers skated to a 4-1 victory and put on an impressive display in front of just over 8,000 fans. For those of you who didn’t have an opportunity to come out to the BankAtlantic Center for the game, you missed a fun night. After not seeing a game inside the arena for nearly six months, it was very refreshing to walk in and see all the sights and hear all the sounds of hockey! Watching our guys skating around during the pre-game warm-ups, it started to settle in that hockey season was finally back. Once the puck dropped, however, the night seemed to go by too quickly. Before we knew it, the Panthers had won and we were back out in the parking lot hanging out with our friends and talking about the game. It’s funny how the evening worked out. Even though nearly 180 days had separated a lot us from our last visits with each other, it was as if we’d been out there together all summer. We parked in the same places we did back in April, tailgated before the game, wore the same jerseys, had the same refreshing beverages, enjoyed each other’s company, watched the team we love play a great game, and just generally had a terrific time. Vanessa and I are fortunate to have some wonderful friends, and getting to tailgate and visit with them at the arena is part of why we love Panthers hockey so much. It is the one thing for which we all share a common passion… 

Since my last blog entry, the Cats named Brian McCabe as the 6th Captain in Florida Panthers history. The naming of a Captain is another step in the direction of stability, and I’m happy we’ve ended the rotation of Assistant Captains. Coach DeBoer has now had two training camps and a full NHL season to get to know his players, and his decision to name McCabe as Captain has been embraced by Panthers fans. Caber has served as either a Captain or Assistant Captain on every team for which he’s played in the NHL, and he brings that leadership and experience into the Panthers’ dressing room every night. He, like several other guys on the roster, leads by example. Nowhere was that more apparent than last March when he returned to the lineup after only missing three games due to the broken nose and orbital bone he suffered in a game at the BankAtlantic Center. Although there were several qualified candidates for Captain, I think Coach DeBoer’s choice is perfect. Caber plays with intensity, he gets a load of ice time, and he’s also well respected among his teammates and within the organization. Personally, I’m looking forward to his first opportunity to return to Toronto sporting the new letter on his chest. I hope he gets as much satisfaction out of it as I will. After the way he was maligned in Ontario, coming back with a “C” should provide only slightly less enjoyment than last season’s come-from-behind, in-your-face, overtime, game-winning goal (which left thousands in the Air Canada Centre standing in stunned silence). Congratulations to Brian McCabe. 

A few notes:

-In my last blog entry, I mentioned that FSN had stopped replaying Panthers games during the summer months. The day after the blog was posted on the website, I received an email from Frank Forte of Fox Sports. He told me that instead of replaying the Panthers games, FSN had begun last summer to produce and air the Panthers Summer Sizzle specials, keeping Panthers fans up-to-date on the happenings of the organization during the off-season. In 2008 they aired two of them, and this summer they aired one. A second Summer Sizzle was planned for this summer, but FSN reallocated the budget intended for that program to help offset the costs of sending a crew to Finland to document the entire Europe trip. Frank is currently over there traveling with the Panthers and chronicling the entire excursion. He said FS Florida will be airing an episode of Inside the Panthers toward the middle of October, which will give a synopsis of the team’s journey to Finland for the NHL Premiere games. I have had several opportunities to watch Frank do his job, and Vanessa and I have even had the pleasure of actually working with him on one occasion. If you’ve ever seen any of his specials on the Panthers or Marlins, you know how dedicated he is to his craft. I certainly appreciate him taking the time to respond to the blog, and to fill us all in on the upcoming Helsinki program. Thank you, Frank.

- I also received several emails concerning the watch party at Breakaway Bar and Grill inside incredible ICE on Friday, October 2nd. There seemed to be some confusion about whether or not the event is going to be open to the public. Yes, the watch party is absolutely open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. It will be co-hosted by the Panthers Organization and the Panthers Booster Club. The game will be broadcast on Versus. For those of you with DirecTV, the ongoing dispute between them and Comcast will prevent you from being able to watch the game at home, as the Versus channel is currently NOT being carried by DirecTV. So, come on out and join fellow Panthers fans for the opening game of the 2009-2010 regular season! The watch party starts at 11:00am.

- And as a reminder, there will be TWO watch parties from which to choose on Saturday, October 3rd; one is being held at the Carolina Ale House in Weston, and the other is at Giovanni’s Coal Fire Pizza on 136th street in the little shopping center next to IKEA. Saturday’s game will be carried nationally by the NHL network at 12:00pm.

-The Panthers Face-Off Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, October 7th at the Signature Grand in Davie from noon until 2:00pm. Vanessa and I attended this event last year, and we’re looking forward to taking part in it again. We had a terrific time sitting at a table with eight of our friends, enjoying a delicious lunch and being surround by players and coaches. Individual tickets are $100 and will include a voucher for four club level tickets to a Florida Panthers home game in October during the 2009-10 season, excluding opening night. Tables of 10 are also be available for purchase for $900 and each guest will also receive a voucher for four club level tickets to a Florida Panthers home game in October during the 2009-10 season, excluding opening night.

Thank you to all of you who emailed me and sent me messages on facebook after the last blog entry. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: 

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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