In just another attempt to bring the fans closer to the team and vice versa, floridapanthers.com would like to introduce our newest fan blogger, Murphy Burch. Joining YourBlog's Cliff Peeke, Murphy will be writing about his view's on the Panthers for this season.
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. As Vanessa and I headed up to the Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton for the Florida Panthers Foundation second annual Face-Off Luncheon last Tuesday, I began watching the clock on the dashboard at about 11:40. The time was whittling away at a faster pace than the miles on the odometer, and it looked like we were going to be late.
Then as we were waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Glades Road and Jog Road, I looked in my rear-view mirror. Sitting behind us in the passenger’s seat of a large white SUV was Michael Yormark. I knew as long as he was behind us, we weren’t going to be late! I mean after all, can an official Panthers function really begin without the President and COO of the team in attendance? We arrived at Woodfield with plenty time to spare, and when we went inside we were greeted in the lobby by several of our friends who’d been waiting for us.
The master of ceremonies for the afternoon was our very own Steve Goldstein. As a Panthers fan, there’s something comforting about hearing Goldie’s voice. I know he has many irons in the fire, but when I hear him speaking, I think of only one thing: Panthers hockey!
There were several speakers, including Coach DeBoer, who gave brief speeches before the introduction of the players by the Panthers PA announcer, Bill Murphy (another person whose voice is synonymous with the Panthers). As Murph called each player’s name in his signature game-introduction style, they would come down from the stage to loud applause (and the clanging of cowbells from our table) and make their way out to the table at which they’d be seated for the duration of the luncheon.
Ten original members of the Cowbell Club occupied the table at which Vanessa and I were seated, and our player-guest was none other than #85 himself, Rostislav Olesz! I’d just like to take a second here to tell you that even if you lived to be 100, you’d be hard-pressed to find a finer example of genuine goodness than Rusty. From the minute he arrived at the table, he was gracious, polite, soft-spoken, and just downright nice. During the course of the luncheon, he said “thank you” each time the waiter brought a plate, picked one up, or filled his water glass. He addressed each person at the table with direct eye contact and meaningful answers to their questions. He patiently stood for photos with anyone who wanted one, and signed autographs for every single person who made their way to our table. He was quite open and frank when it came to answering our questions about everything from his hit on Lee in the Islander game the previous evening, to how the atmosphere is in the locker room without Jokinen in it this season. I won’t delve into his specific answers because while I’m certain he didn’t expect complete confidentiality, I’m equally certain he didn’t expect to have his answers posted in an official Panthers blog. But suffice it to say, that as die-hard Panthers fans, the members of our table left the luncheon with a newfound admiration on a personal level for the young Mr. Olesz.
There were a couple of highlights from the luncheon that bear mentioning. First, Florida Panthers Foundation Chairman, Stu Siegel, donated $100,000 to the foundation. It was quite a generous sum, and a very meaningful altruistic gesture (a gesture that received thunderous applause).
And on a personal note, as I was waiting for the valet to bring our car around, I had the absolute pleasure of spending about 10 minutes chatting with Denis Potvin! What a super guy! We chatted about several things, but the one that left me with a smile on my face was the topic of the single stupidest chant in all of sports. I’m sure you all know the one I’m talking about… Mr. Potvin seemed to relish the fact that we are quickly approaching the 30th anniversary of that chant. I assured him, however, that the fans of the Florida Panthers were going to do their very best to drown it out and prevent it from ever being chanted again in the BankAtlantic Center. Let’s face it, no matter with which team he won his FOUR STANLEY CUPS, Denis Potvin IS A FLORIDA PANTHER, and we owe it to him to protect him from the vulgarity of the Rangers fans. I propose that the next time the Rangers are in town and their obnoxious fans try to get that stunningly ridiculous chant started with that silly little whistle, we all start chanting “FOUR CUPS, FOUR CUPS, FOUR CUPS”.
Well, our guys took an early 2-0 lead, but dropped the season opener last night up in Raleigh, and I was out at the Hard Rock to watch the game with dozens of other Panthers fans. It was a tough one to swallow, but the Panthers will get a speedy opportunity for redemption as they open at home tonight! Vanessa and I will be there, ringing our cowbells and cheering our hearts out for the Panthers! We’re optimistic there’ll be a full house joining us! Unless you’re reading this from a hospital bed, or England, you should try your hardest to make it out to the arena for all of the festivities! Don’t forget about our little tailgate in the Northeast Parking lot at 5:00! It’ll be a terrific opportunity to meet some new people, and form some new friendships.
I hope you enjoyed today’s entry. In my next one, I’m going to briefly recap the Watch Party at the Hard Rock, and I’ll talk about the opening night festivities out at the BankAtlantic Center! Have a terrific weekend, and GO PANTHERS!