Between photo shoots, interviews and meeting Panther fans Monday evening at the Cats Cookout at BankAtlantic Center, goalie Tomas Vokoun took time to answer questions sent in by fans to FloridaPanthers.com.
Vokoun, acquired last month by the Panthers from Nashville, has won 25 games in each of the past four seasons and helped turn the Predators from a struggling expansion club to a playoff team.
Vokoun sat down with FloridaPanthers.com at BankAtlantic Center after having put on for the first time a Panther jersey with his No. 29.
From Guiherme: What number will you wear and is there is any significance?
Vokoun (laughing): “There is. I have worn it for a long time. I don’t remember why I chose it. There’s a million things you get tired of, but if there’s something you really like and you keep it for a while it’s got a special meaning even if in other people’s perspective its meaningless. I have pretty good luck on the ice with it and if I have a choice to keep it I always will.”
From Marxo: Will it be a difficult transition going from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference?
Vokoun: “It’s a question I’ll have to find an answer. All my career I’ve played in the Western Conference. I don’t anticipate it but it’s hard to answer because I haven’t been through it. But it’s the same game, the same rules, So, hopefully, it won’t be any harder.”
From Will: How do prepare for shootouts? Do you look at video of the opposition?
Vokoun:: “I don’t. I think as a goalie it’s a read and react sport. All the good players have their tendencies. If you don’t know them by now, then video won’t help you. When you get this far you have to have a talent and you have to read well. Sometimes when you’re expecting something and the player does something opposite it can hurt you. You can’t be pre-programed to do something. If it’s a smart player he’s reacting, so you have to, too.”
From Jesensky in Slovakia: How well do you know teammates Richard Zednik and Jozef Stumpel?
Vokoun: “Pretty well. I played with Richard when we were still Czechoslovakia in the national team under 16 years old. I know Jozef mutually through other Czechoslovakian players I have played with. We have played several international tournaments against him. We’re two countries now but we’re really close. We’ve been one country for such a long time. Our language and backgrounds are so similar. I don’t know Jozef that well but when I talk to mutual friends he’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to playing with him on the same team.”
From Scott: Since you were traded to Florida and it wasn’t a voluntary move, what is your mindset?
Vokoun: “It doesn’t change anything. I play to win every time I step on the ice. In these days, it was special for me being in Nashville from an expansion team to the transition. But my efforts are going to be just the same as Nashville, if not even more. It’s a change for me and a new motivation. It’s a franchise that has missed the playoffs and it’s a chance to do something and change that. That’s a great opportunity for any player.”
From Ml: What are your feelings about the Panthers’ defensive core?
Vokoun: “I played against (Jay) Bouwmeester in international competition when he played for Canada. Obviously, a great, talented, young player. I played against (Bryan) Allen when he was in Vancouver and (Ruslan) Salei when he was in Anaheim. They seem to be the right age and they look really strong on paper. Everyone has to do their job – me, the defense and the forwards. But I definitely like what I see from the acquisitions to the talent they have. There’s a lot of players on this team.”
From Derek: How do you feel about having so much responsibility to get this team to the playoffs?
Vokoun: “Considering my status, what the Florida Panthers gave in return to Nashville for me and my salary? That’s my job. You can’t expect anything less. This is a position you have to earn, even if it’s a tough position. But I think it’s the best position. I feel you want to be measured by the best players in the game and they certainly had that in Roberto (Luongo) when he was here. I know very well I’ll always be measured by that. It’s something you have to embrace. You can’t be scared or regret that. I look forward to that. Players like that because you must have done something well along the way to come here.”
From several people in Nashville who will miss you visiting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. They’re sorry to see you leave.
Vokoun: “You go through phases in your life. One of the most remarkable experiences you have is having children. I really identify with people who have the biggest misfortune in the world of having a sick child. It’s one of the reasons I was doing the stuff I was doing. I don’t like to say it’s something I’m doing. I think any decent human being would do it. I was just in the position for people maybe to know because because I was an athlete and I was on television.”
From Goalie: Any superstitions before a game?
Vokoun (laughing): “I used to be very superstitious. The older I get the less of that. I have a routine, but it’s a starter for getting yourself prepared for the game. There’s a big difference between superstition and having a routine. A routine stays the same in good times and bad times. When you’re superstitious it changes. When you play good you use it, when you don’t you change it.”