As I stepped out onto my balcony view of the Bank Atlantic Center Saturday morning, I glanced out into an empty parking lot. I wished it was a “Hockey Night in South Florida.” I missed seeing cars filing in with crazed fans making their way into the arena. As I know it is All-Star Break, I settle for the next best thing: Florida Panther’s Locker Room Tour & Season Seat Owner Skate.
Parking in the empty lot made me feel like a true fan. Once I made my way inside to the front to check-in , I could only stop and take a breath. Empty arena, silence, and no chaos. I joined the tour on the Event level of the arena, headed by none other than retired Panther and TV announcer, Bill Lindsay. Being a season ticket holder since 1996, I have had the privilege of growing up and watching Bill take the ice with my favorite players, John “the Beezer” Vanbiesbrouck and Scott Mellanby. As we made our way down the hall, I snapped pictures while the younger kids in the group grew with excitement. We made our way through the double doors. On your right, Bill explained, was the strength and conditioning area. This is where the Florida Panthers players would undergo training during the season. There were bikes designated for certain injured players such as Ed Jovanovski and dry erase boards with the plans for each day.
We then made our way through another door. As the tour piled inside, I could only soak it all in. It was the locker roomThe area which the Florida Panther’s players would come in, socialize and get ready for the game later that night. The room was filled with lockers, jerseys, pads, gloves, ice skates, tape, bubblegum you name it. Here, Bill was taking questions, going through game routines for the players and explaining what goes on in the day in the life of a Panther player. For home games, they would meet at the arena for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with Coach Kevin Dineen. Afterwards, they would have a big lunch followed by nap time from 2-4. From here, players would make their way to the ice for one last skate before relaxing for the match. One can only think of what goes on in here after a hard, fought victory — Players shaking hands, high-fiving the goalie etc.
One thing that caught my attention was a gold belt, similar to the ones wrestlers wear after a big win. Bill went on and told us the players award that belt to the MVP of that game. It was sitting in Kris Versteeg’s locker as he scored two goals vs. the Winnipeg Jets. One last thing that caught my attention before the tour ended was Brian Campbell’s locker. It was empty. I stopped and took some pictures of it realizing that he was representing our team in the All-Star Game in Ottawa that Sunday. I could only stare into the emptiness thinking how outstanding of a player he has been throughout the season thus far. The tour was over and I was filled with excitement. I was anxious to come back for our next game against a tough opponent, the Washington Capitals. First place is on the line. Let’s Go Cats!
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