Peter Worrell was selected by the Florida Panthers in the 7th round, 166th overall, in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Worrell played seven seasons in the NHL for the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche. During that time he was considered one of the most feared enforcers in the game and was a fan favorite for the Panthers.
I recently got a chance to sit down and talk with Peter about the goings on in hockey, and the current state of hockey here in the Southern “Non-Traditional” markets.
Josh: You were drafted a “few” years ago by the Panthers. Can you share what that experience was like, as some of the players are experiencing that this week.
Peter Worrell: It was an unbelievable feeling to have your name called. It’s an affirmation of all the hard work you put in throughout the years, and sometimes the blind luck you have had as a player. It’s nice to know that a team believes in you, and wants to give you the opportunity to be an NHL player.
When I found out I was drafted by the Florida Panthers I was over the moon, especially back then it was an expansion team, it was exciting and I felt I had really had an opportunity to make the club, and stick around for a while. Luckily I was able todo that. For a lot of these players it’s really a highlight of their lives, but they still have a lot of work to do to become an NHL player.
Josh: Peter, one of the things you were famous for during your time with the Panthers was your physicality, when you see blindside hits and headshots like the Horton hit in the Finals, what is your reaction when you see that stuff as a guy who took big hits and delivered them, and what do you think the NHL needs to do in reaction to them?
Peter Worrell: Well I think they are beginning to take some steps that are very, very important, getting away from the targeting of the head is very important, I think the issue is not as black and white as everyone makes it out to be.
It’s such a high speed game now, and unfortunately I think players today are taught early on to put themselves in bad positions with their head down and reaching for the puck. That was not the situation with Nathan, but if we can just continue to enforce and play with the rules they have we can get to a point where those issues are less common and when they do happen they are more of a mistake as opposed to something that happens all the time.
Josh: How is it going working with FAU college hockey here in South Florida?
Peter Worrell: It’s going ok, we had our first year with the team last year and were able to make it to the national tournament which was a huge step for us. There is a long way for us to go in terms of becoming a great place to play, but we have a lot good players from the area down here that can help our program out. I think if we continue to build slowly and keep bringing in good kids we are gonna have something down here to be proud of…
Josh: Now you have been involved with minor league, high school and now college hockey for a while. We have such good programs going on down here in a “non-traditional” market. Now we see a city like Atlanta lost a team, why is it important to have a firm foundation in hockey in the community?
Peter Worrell: As a Canadian, obviously it’s nice to have another team, however, as a person who loves the game I don’t think it was a great thing to happen. Atlanta was starting to put down roots and were gaining some good young players through good junior hockey programs there. It’s disappointing, an NHL team helps solidify those youth movements. Florida, Georgia and Texas we are all places that are in our first generation of hockey, and as much as my brethren up north would like to think we dominate hockey, it took generations for it to become as big and as popular as it is up there.
So it’s disappointing that Atlanta is losing roots and was not able to support the kids, and hopefully the parents will still keeping bringing the kids out to play and Atlanta doesn’t become a hockey death bed. There are a lot of good athletes that come out of Georgia and you will see it in the next 5 or 6 years some of these kids who are 12-13 years old right now are going to be really good hockey players that will play at the college level and the pro level.
Thanks for talking with us Peter!
…and thanks for reading!
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