Paul Laus was recently discussing the upcoming ‘Weekend of the Rat’ reunion with a former teammate via e-mail when the ex-Panther was asked how much weight he had put on in recent years.
Laus answered the question by sending an e-mail with his head superimposed over one of a body builder.
“Actually,” Laus recalled laughing. “I’m more worried about skating. I haven’t skated in two, three years except with my kids. So I hope no one hits me and I hope I don’t fall down.”
Laus, the team enforcer and fan favorite during his nine seasons in Florida, is looking forward to returning for the July 28 Reunion game at BankAtlantic Center featuring players from the 1996 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
For Laus, who has spent the past five years helping to raise his three small children in Grimsby, Ont., the ‘Weekend of the Rat’ is a chance to catch up with former teammates as well as Panther fans.
“The (’96 team) is important part of the organization and its history,” Laus said. “That team and the community had a real special connection and I think it still does. When the reunion weekend was announced I got a flood of e-mails asking if I was going to be coming down. It was great to hear from people and it’s going to be a chance to reconnect for all of us.”
Laus, who grew up just a few miles from where he currently lives, was selected by the Panthers in the ’93 Expansion Draft after playing the previous season in the International Hockey League, where he piled up a record 427 penalty minutes in 76 games for Cleveland.
Laus was a force on defense for the Panthers from the start. During the 1995-96 season, Laus played in 78 games while scoring nine points and racking up 236 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he contributed two goals and six assists in 21 games.
“Everything happened so fast,” said Laus, referring to the team’s run during the playoffs and its Eastern Conference championship. “It was exciting.”
Laus was a steady contributor on the Panthers’ blue line until 2002 when he shattered his right hand during a fight with Atlanta’s Jeff Cowan.
“Basically, I drove my hand through my wrist,” Laus said. “Maybe it was the perfect punch or it was from the wear-and-tear of all those years (of fighting). I have a steel bar above my second knuckle a quarter of a way down my arm. So I can’t bend my wrist, but it’s not like I’m a piano player or plastic surgeon.
“I just wish I had another chance at the Stanley Cup. It’s every kid’s dream. And to get as close as we did, it’s just something that eluded me.”
Laus spends much of his time with his three children, all under the age of five. But he said he may want to become more involved in coaching after serving as an assistant last season to the Bramalea Bulls, a Tier II, Junior A team in Canada.
“It was fun and something I’m probably going to think about a little more,” he said. “It’s something I couldn’t have done when my children were younger, but we’re a little more settled in now.”