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
Don’t look now, but we are about a month away from officially putting another off-season behind us, and I would imagine that a lot of you have already turned your thoughts back to hockey. For many of the die-hards, hockey never really left the forefront of our day-to-day lives. Even though the time between the Stanley Cup finals and opening night seems like an eternity, there are a few things that happen during the summer to help keep your interest piqued; the draft in June, free agency in July, and even an occasional trade to liven things up during August and September. But in reality, most of us just live our summers on autopilot waiting for the return of the ice and the 41 nights we get to sit in our seats and watch the greatest game on earth!
We can take solace in knowing that our rookies are currently going through camp in Coral Springs, and not long after that, our NHL guys will be returning to the ice as a team (officially) to start knocking the cobwebs loose. For those of us who are in need of some hockey, heading up to the rink and watching the rookies bang it out for a chance to make the big club is just what the doctor ordered. The fun started on Sunday.
Even for those among us who live for this sport, I would imagine that our passion (and need) for it pales in comparison to that of the actual players who lace up their skates and play it for a living. It’s been a while since I played competitive sports (thanks to a series of knee operations), but I remember how much I looked forward to playing the games, and even practicing with my teammates. That feeling is similar to what I feel as a fan, but it’s not quite the same. One guy who’s eager to get going and hit the ice is David Booth. Perhaps no other player on the Panthers is looking forward to this season as much as David is, and with good reason. In the first year of a new multi-year contract, he had his season interrupted and eventually cut short by multiple concussions. Sadly, as David’s luck ran out, so did that of the rest of the team and the entire organization.
This summer has been unlike any other in his young career. He feels like he has something to prove, and with the expectations placed upon him by teammates, coaches, and fans alike, he knows he needs to come back to Sunrise and have a breakout year. And that’s just what he’s training for. From skating and hitting the weights, to keeping his diet clean and focusing on hockey, he’s had a productive off-season and is ready for camp to start.
David and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I recently caught up with him in Michigan. Between his demanding schedule of preparing for the upcoming season and trying to balance all of the obligations of being an athlete, celebrity and family member, he took the time to answer some questions about how his summer has gone, and what his expectations and desires are for this year. Along the way, he also answered several of the questions submitted to me by readers of the blog.
Considering the rather inauspicious way that ’09-’10 ended for him, a common theme throughout a large percentage of the questions from the fans was a curiosity about David’s general health and whether or not he is still feeling any of the effects of the concussions. His answer was pretty straightforward: “The effects of the concussions are behind me. I feel 100% and I’m really looking forward to getting back. It’s funny, I was just thinking about that today. The last couple of days I’ve been skating pretty hard, doing a little bit of contact, and it’s not until later that I think about the concussion stuff. I know it’s going to be asked about a lot this season, and I’m prepared for that, but I want people to know that I’m feeling great and it’s like it never even happened” he said. “The biggest thing I need to do [to prevent any further injuries] is keep my head up…”
Numerous fans asked if Booth has any opinions on the new head-hit rules in the NHL, and whether or not he’s considered wearing any different equipment to try to prevent any type of head injuries in light of last season’s concussions. “You know, I haven’t really looked into [the new rule]. I just think there needs to be more accountability amongst the players. These rules, I mean, I’m not going to go try to blindside someone, you know that’s not part of my game, so it’s not something I really need to worry about too much. I guess I was just a product of a bad hit, and I just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
And any new equipment in the plans for ’10-’11? “I haven’t really looked into anything like that or thought that far ahead. I don’t think wearing anything different would’ve prevented my injuries, but I may look into it when I get down to Florida.”
Many readers also wanted to know how Booth spends his summers, and for any of you who know what an outdoorsman he is, his answers won’t surprise you. “Being a hockey player takes up most of my time. With hockey, there are so many things you have to work on to prepare yourself, and it really starts to get [difficult] in August. I’ve been working on my strength training, my skating, stick-handling, agility, puck skills, shooting, and cardio; lots and lots of cardio. It’s hard to find time to do them all and still have fun, but I’ve managed to take some breaks. You can’t let yourself get too caught up and not enjoy your summer. That’s the only time you have to yourself, because it’s a full-time job during the season. I’ve gotten to go and do some hunting this summer. I shot a red stag, which was pretty cool, and I shot a couple of turkeys. I also went antelope hunting with my brother.”
When the subject turned to the team and whether or not he’d been following what General Manager Dale Tallon has done so far, Booth’s answer was nice to hear in light of all the negative opinions found everywhere from NHL.com to the Canadian media. “Yeah, geez, we’ve got a pretty new team coming in here this season, and it looks like a good team. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people here.”
A lot of the questions I received from readers centered on what to expect from Booth this season in terms of numbers, and whether or not he’s set any goals for this year. “The main thing this season is definitely to stay healthy, that’s my main goal. I’ve been working this summer to get my body ready to stay healthy. You know, if I’m healthy, and playing well, my goals will get accomplished.”
How about goals and assists? What type of season are you expecting from yourself this year? “You know, if you start putting numbers on things (like goals, assists, etc), sometimes you get frustrated when you don’t reach those numbers, and you may start to try TOO hard. This is the first time in a while where I haven’t set numbers. I know what I want to do, and I know the game I need to play. It’s more of a ‘style of game’ this year, versus the ‘numbers game’ of the past.”
And finally, after the grueling travel schedule that the Panthers have endured in recent years, how do you feel about having training camp here in South Florida for a change? “Oh my gosh! I think everyone’s so pumped about it! This is my fifth year, and for the first time we finally we get to stay home. That’s going to help out a lot. It’s definitely going to be beneficial to us”
I want to take a minute to sincerely thank the hundreds of you who took the time to send in questions via email and facebook. There were many that I didn’t get to (some were too personal to ask, and others just got left off due to time constraints), but the essence of most of them was addressed. I’d also like to thank David for sitting down and taking a few minutes to answer fans’ questions.
In a few days, I’ll put out one final column of the summer. Then, for at least the next six months, the happenings of the season will fill the blog! I hope to see many of you in Coral Springs during training camp. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I can be reached at:VanMurph@hotmail.com
or followed on Twitter @Van_Murph
Thanks for stopping by the blog.