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
Like many of you, I live and die with each Florida Panthers possession of the puck, and the ebb and flow of the game feels like being on a roller coaster with no brakes. Problem is, lately, someone’s been building a brick wall at the end of the tracks.
While I know there are 71 games left in this LONG season, there are times when I truly have a difficult time pacing myself and keeping that in perspective. After each game, win or lose, I’m completely spent. Even as someone who always tries to find something positive to take home after a loss, the fact is, we’ve now lost 4 in a row, and the most recent setback in Atlanta puts us one point out of last place in the division. Compounding the uneasiness we felt when the Thrashers’ empty-netter sealed the Panthers’ fate, was the knowledge that Carolina had already won their game earlier in the evening, thus widening their points lead over us in the Southeast Division. It’s a familiar refrain, “we drop one, and Carolina wins”. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t think my psyche can handle spending the next six months seeing that team ahead of us in the standings. Another season of Ground Hog Days is going to be pretty tough to swallow.
During the pre-season I was having a conversation with a friend while we were watching the Panthers practice. I said the team was doing a lot of things really well and they didn’t look anything like last year’s squad. His reply turned out to be prophetic: “They look great now, but let’s see how they look after their first four-game losing streak. That will be a test of Pete’s coaching, and a test of this team’s character.” Looking back on the conversation, it took place just as the Panthers were going through some pretty impressive-looking drills, and Coach DeBoer was out there seemingly breathing new life into the organization. I thought to myself, “if this team plays the way they’re practicing right now, they won’t HAVE any four-game losing streaks”. But here we are, 11 games into the season and our team is facing a hauntingly familiar multi-faceted challenge; stop the losing, on the road, with an injury-plagued lineup. It’s an uphill climb for sure, but only 1/8 of the way through the season, I have no choice but to have faith that the Panthers will be able to persevere. To do otherwise would mean giving up on the team, and I’m not going to do that, even if we finish dead last in the league.
The loss to Ottawa in the BankAtlantic Center was burdensome. Having held the lead into the third period, only to relinquish it late in the game, made for a difficult time getting to sleep that evening. I kept replaying the final nine minutes in my head and wondering if there were really that few scoring opportunities allowed by the Senators, or were we just not up to the task of going back out and retaking the lead. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Coach DeBoer pulled T-Vo and we had a 6-on-5 for the last minute or so of the game. Then Cory Stillman’s stick broke and the man-advantage dissipated right along with my spirit. On the ride home Vanessa made a comment that I think will sound familiar to some of you. She said, “You haven’t said a word since we left the arena. When they lose, it’s like YOU lost right along with them, and when they win, it’s like YOU won too”. I explained to her that passion is intrinsic in nearly every competitive person. Passion is something you can’t teach, it just manifests itself, and it’s there for life. Whether you’re playing checkers, skipping rocks on a pond, or skating in the NHL, the quest to do your best and WIN is never-ending. Her observation points to the despondency inherent to a dyed-in-the-wool fan of a team that is considered to be a perennial loser; there’s a whole lot of feeling like I lost right along with them. For the past few seasons, the pain of going home from the arena after a loss or turning the television off after the Panthers get beat on the road has become increasingly familiar and increasingly more difficult to slough off… To be sure, there are plenty of times when I feel like I’m on top of the world (like when we beat San Jose), but for the most part, I find myself in the frustrating position of having to constantly look forward to shots at redemption, rather than basking in the glory of a win…
The Nashville game sounded like it was well played. I say “sounded” like, because the game was not televised (more on that later). But from listening to Randy Moller and Billy Lindsay, the Panthers seemed to play a relatively strong game, and we came away with a point. Karlis Skrastins played lights-out, scoring his second goal of the season and blocking a critical shot late in the game (a potential go-ahead goal). Of late, the play of Karlis Skrastins and Keith Ballard has been worth the price of admission. Skrats is a tough-as-nails competitor in front of the net, and Ballard is our leading points guy, what else needs to be said about these two? Even in these tough losses, Keith’s play has been exciting to watch, and it’s my opinion that he deserves an “A” on his chest, if not a “C”. He’ll be a Panther for seven seasons, including this one, and I couldn’t be happier about it. He’s a pleasure to watch out there, and as the season progresses; it’s a fairly safe bet that he’ll gain Booth-like popularity among the fans.
Now, with regard to the lack of TV coverage in Nashville, I felt like a kid from the 1940’s huddled up in front of the radio as the Panthers were heading into the shootout. It was like listening to a Fireside Chat from President Roosevelt. The realization of the fact that I was listening to the Florida Panthers on the radio in 2008 was pretty stark, and maddening… When I purchased the NHL GameCenter on NHL.com, I did it to be able to fill in the gaps in the schedule of games to be aired on FSN, and to watch the Panthers when I was out of town with work. Once I realized the game was not going to be seen by anyone outside of the Sommet Center in Nashville, I began to have buyer’s remorse! It also caused me to wonder if there was any correlation between the National Hockey League having a relatively small fan base and the fact that the sport is only covered on regional cable network’s local affiliates. And depending on what other sport they intend to cover for the evening, those networks also have alternate channels on which they’ll broadcast the hockey game you’re tuning-in to watch. It’s difficult enough to find the games on the channel guide, but to have to look in multiple locations only compounds that difficulty.
A couple of things on the lighter side:Reebok.com Customized Shoes
A couple of months ago I received an email containing a link to a special Reebok website. On the site there is a section where you can customize a pair of shoes with your favorite NHL, MLB, or NFL team. Everything is customizable, right down to the color of the stitching! After playing around on the site for an hour or so, I decided to order the pair of sneakers I’d just finished customizing with the Florida Panthers logo and color scheme. When I was finished ordering them, I placed a screenshot of the finished product on our Flickr.com page (It’s a photo-sharing website). Not long thereafter, a reporter named Kimberly Palmer from US News and World Report happened across the photo and left a message for me about them. As it turns out, she was writing an article for the magazine on the fairly new trend of people buying customized products on the Internet. We exchanged a couple of emails and she called to interview me about the shoes. A few weeks later, the phone rang again; this time it was a nice young lady from the US News and World Report’s photo department. She informed me that they wanted to send a photographer down from Washington, DC to photograph the shoes for the magazine article. On the night of the Panthers’ 6-0 pre-season pounding of the New York Islanders, Vanessa and I had the pleasure of hosting photographer Charlie Archambault at the tailgate and at our seats for the game. He took a ton of photos, and he was kind enough to send us a few of them when he got back to DC.
The article is online at: http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/your-money/2008/10/27/the-store-of-you.html?PageNr=1
The magazine is on newsstands this week (Nov 3-9), and it may be the first time ever that the Florida Panthers name and logo appear in that particular publication! The article is on pages 54-56.
For anyone who’s interested in creating their very own Panthers Reeboks, you can create them and have them in your possession in less than 10 days! Here is the website:http://www.rbkcustom.com/content.html
Florida Panthers Message Boards
Just a reminder that if you want to talk Panthers hockey with a group of great Panthers die-hards, you can visit the message board at: http://forums.floridapanthers.com/
Stop by, sign up, and start participating. It’s as simple as that.The Halloween Game
The game against the Senators brought out a few costumes at the Bank Atlantic Center, but none were as COMPLETELY AWESOME as the one worn by a season-seat owner who sits with the Dancing Teachers up in section 424. He came dressed as the spitting image of Gene Simmons of KISS, complete with leather wings, and a spiked Panthers jersey! The makeup was spot-on, and the hair was actually his, so no wig was necessary!
Also at that game was the most vocal edition of the Shirtless Panthers Fans we’ve seen so far this season. The guys stood in the last row of the lower bowl in section 127 all night, and they definitely had the spirit we desperately need in the BankAtlantic Center. Throughout the night they stayed on top of the action and started the “Let’s Go Panthers” and “DE-FENSE” chants at key times during the game. Guys, if you’re reading this, thank you for your efforts! If we could clone you and put a group on all 4 sides of the arena, it would make for a much livelier game!
Well, that about does it for this entry. I wish it were written under better circumstances, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I was able to rearrange my schedule for this week, and I’ll be attending the next 3 games against the Western Conference opponents (LA, Phoenix, and Anaheim). Win or lose, I’ll be blogging for you about the in-arena experience from all three locations, and the pros and cons of each place versus the BankAtlantic Center. I’ve been to all three arenas before, but this will be the first time I’ve ever seen the Panthers play in them. I’m excited to watch our hockey team compete on the road for the first time this season, and I’m looking forward to meeting up with a few Panthers fans in each place for lunch. All of them are driving in from various locations to watch the games, and I think it will be fun to sit and talk Panthers hockey with fans from other areas of the country.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the last blog entry. It was a pleasure to correspond with each of you.
One more thing: Cory Stillman took a pretty nasty shove into the ice next to the net in Atlanta. The injury caused the loss of some teeth, and some stitches. I can’t imagine the toughness required to deal with something like that, but Cory is the consummate professional and I’m confident he’ll be back out there full-force in no time. We’d like to wish him the best, and a speedy recovery.