For the fourth consecutive summer, the Florida Panthers brought the sport of hockey to the Caribbean.
Partnering with JetBlue and CURE International Hospital, Cats forward Vincent Trocheck, Television Analyst Randy Moller, Stanley C. Panther and members of the Panthers staff visited Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for a hospital visit and street hockey clinic on Sept. 9.
The Panthers trip to CURE was during a day of the hospital’s clubfoot initiative. Many of the young patients were preparing to have casts removed from their legs and feet when Stanley C. Panther entered the room. The children’s faces lit up as Stanley greeted them and their families. The Cats' mascot provided a few laughs by dancing with the CURE staff and taking pictures with all involved.
Joining Stanley was the Panthers staff, who assisted CURE by cutting rolls of gauze and other materials for the patient’s casts, while also aiding them in the cast removal procedure.
“It was an honor to be a part of this outreach trip,” said Moller. “It’s something special to be able to make a positive impact in a family’s life, even if it’s for a day. To see our staff taking the initiative to help these kids goes to show the type of character we have top to bottom in our organization. We’re privileged to be welcomed into their country and have this opportunity.”
Following the hospital visit, the Panthers travelled to a local school to set up a street hockey clinic led by Trocheck and Moller. Over 75 students participated in the clinic, many of which had never played or heard of hockey. By the end of the clinic, the group began chanting the name of this new sport in unison.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Trocheck of the experience. “I’ve always been one of those kids who looked up to professional hockey players, professional athletes and now to be a professional athlete and give back to these kids… it feels like giving back to myself to when I was a kid, kind of. I know what it meant to me when I was a kid, so it means a lot.”
The clinic was broken up into three stations:
•Game station where the participants played their first hockey game in the Panthers’ inflatable rink.
•Stickhandling and shooting station.
•The basics of Hockey taught by Randy Moller.
Unsure of what to expect or how these new hockey players would fare, Trocheck was taken back by the enthusiasm and warm welcome he and the Panthers staff received. The 22-year old was glad to be a part of it all and to share his love of hockey.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Trocheck. “To have this many kids out here, there’s a lot of kids that didn’t really know much about the game of hockey and then they come out here and see a professional hockey player…they’re kind of awestruck by it. When you see the smiles on their faces and how much fun they’re having it’s pretty awesome.”
“To be able to come down here, run through some drills, teach them the game and see how much fun they’re having out there and to be able to have some fun with them, it means a lot to me. It’s great for the organization, it’s great for the Florida Panthers.”
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