So how did a born and raised guy from Saskatchewan come to be a die-hard and in the blood Florida Panther fan? That has been asked of me many times over the past 18 years, by many who cannot fathom the fact that a Canadian is not pulling for a Canadian team.
The answer? Well that’s a funny story.
I grew up moving through many small towns in Saskatchewan, and always would check out who was in the Stanley Cup finals. We lived in a city called Swift Current for the majority of the 80s and followed the local junior team there very closely. I always remembered all the games that my parents would my younger brother and I to, seeing such future NHLers as Geoff Sanderson, Sheldon Kennedy, Trent McCleary and my all time favorite Bronco, Joe Sakic. It was a tough day when we moved to a really small town and didn’t have the WHL team to follow anymore. But as a child at the age of 9, you take interest in other things.
It wasn’t until we were preparing to move again in 1993 that I started to pick up my Dad’s copies of The Hockey News and took a great interest in the NHL. Since I was becoming a new NHL fan, I wanted to find a team that maybe I could grow with. I remember I was playing floor hockey in the basement on my 13th birthday when TSN did a report on the upcoming expansion draft and there I saw the logo of a leaping Panther and as funny as it sounds, I said, “That’s the team I will pull for.”
More After the Jump
And that is how this whole roller coaster started for me. There have been some great memories and I am certain that there are many more to come. Some of the things that I will never forget include the night that the Panthers beat my brothers Canadiens for the first time ever, the first two years of missing the playoffs by 1 point and 1995-96.
I will never forget how when the playoffs started that year, classmates would give me a hard time about pulling for them and how the Panthers would bow out fast, and how every game I wore my Panthers T-shirt or jersey to rub it in as my Panthers knocked off the others Bruins, Flyers and Penguins. Until my favorite player John Vanbiesbrouck ran into my old favorite player Joe Sakic. I remember staying up well past my bedtime watching and hoping we could extend the series another game in game 4, and still heading to bed feeling very satisfied that my team almost did what was thought to be impossible.
I recall being on an online hockey board under the moniker Stanley C. in December 1998 and suggesting to the masses that I think a trade of Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Kevin Weekes and our 1st pick in the upcoming draft should be enough to net us Pavel Bure, and then being told not a chance. And then on a cold January 17th, 1998, playing hockey on an outdoor rink in my Panther jersey claiming to be Pavel Bure scoring goals for the Panthers, and again being laughed at. Only to go home, sit down to eat and have my Dad tell me, “Pavel just got traded to the Panthers.”, for that exact offer I suggested.
Or a year later being woke up by my Dad for the start of the NHL draft, and being told as I am getting breakfast ready that the Panthers pulled off the Luongo trade.
The first time I ever saw a game live was in Edmonton in 2004. Being that I was living in Oil country, I had adopted the Oilers as a second team, but was there in full Panthers blue jersey and hat cheering as loud as I could after sneaking into 5th row seats and catching a Valeri Bure goal right in front of me.
And the second time, to me was even better. Cause even though it was only a preseason game, I got to see my Panthers beat the Flames in a shootout live in my own town in Saskatoon. I think there were all of 3 fans that left happy that night. And I also tracked down and spoke with the Panthers scratches, including Jokinen.
Being a Panther fan has had its ups and downs, but it has always been a fun ride and a ride that won’t soon end.
And to those who still ask me, “Why that team? You’re crazy!” I always reply, “You’ll see in 3 to 5 years.”
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Topics: Go Die Jack Edwards