A couple of weeks ago we took a look at a number that had a great deal of history and a promising future. Today we’ll look at at another number that provided us with a good deal of history, grit, and a little bit of “Russian flair” mixed in as well. The number 10 is normally worn by a player who happens to be one of the top players on a team. However as you’ll see it’s also a number that’s given to a veteran player out of respect. The number 10 has been worn by only six players in the history of the Panthers. However with the possible exception of one player, these players were some of the best to ever wear a Florida Panther sweater.
Dave Lowry played for 19 NHL seasons with five teams. A sixth round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1983, Lowry played with the Canucks and St. Louis Blues before he was claimed by the Florida Panthers in their 1993 expansion draft. Lowry was one of the hardest working players to ever have worn a Panther sweater. He fit perfectly into Roger Nielson’s system, and continued to provide that same work ethic throughout his career. His specialty was killing penalties, and being on the ice to defend against some of the oppositions better forwards. In doing so Lowry made every minute count, and every once in awhile prived that clutch goal. His most productive moments as a Panther came during their thrilling Stanley Cup run in the spring of 1996. Lowry appeared in 22 post season games scoring 10 goals with 7 assists, including four goals on the power play. He was our “John Druce” during that run. Lowry wore number 10 till the ’97 season when he was traded to the San Jose Sharks as part of the deal in which the Panthers acquired Viktor Kozlov.
Marcus Nilson was originally drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the Florida Panthers in 1996. He made his debut as a rookie in the 1998-1999 season playing eight games. He played for the Panthers for parts of six seasons with 2000-2001 being his most productive when he accumulated 36 points. Nilson was a player who had to work very hard to b e successful. On many nights it was felt that he could have worked harder, but he was also on some teams that had very little talent. After being unable to push him to success an longer, Nilson was traded to the Calgary Flames in 2004 for a second round draft pick. Funny thing was, is that Nilson wore number 10 only for a brief part of his career here in Florida. He gave it to the next player following a trade.
Pavel Bure was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round in 1989, and immediately set the NHL on fire once he began to play full time. With consecutive 60 goal seasons in 92-93 and 93-94, the player with the nicknmae “The Russian Rocket” was a very special and talented player. The electricity that he provided, and the skillset that he had was unmatched during his time. Not necessarily known for his defensive play, it seemed that Bure could almost score at will. He had moves that would leave defencemen and goaltenders wondering what just happened as he cruised right by them. In the Canucks Cup run in 1994 Bure had 31 points that included 16 goals in 24 games. Bure was one very special player and no one ever dreamed that the Florida Panthers would be able to acquire the gifted scorer. But they did. In a 7 player deal with the Canucks, Bure came to the Panthers to hopefully electrify a team and a fan base that was beginning to struggle for wins. Bure and his goal scoring talents appeared to be just what they needed. While he had some injury issues, he put together two glorious seasons where he scored 58 and 59 goals and brought everyone to the edge of their seat while doing so. It seemed that no matter when the Panthers needed a goal, Bure provided it. He would score at even strength, short handed, on the power play and on penalty shots. He was simply amazing, and so was his $10 million dollar a year contract that would ultimately handcuff the organization. Bure was the team. But he learned as did we that he couldn’t do it all by himself, and he needed help. However with his bulging contract, the Panthers couldn’t spend money on acquiring any star players to compliment him. On March 18th 2002 Pavel Bure was traded to the New York Rangers for Filip Novak, Igor Ulanov and three draft picks, one of which was a first rounder that was traded away. The fan base was told that the money that was being spent on Bure would be used to acquire two or three players that would help the Panthers and equip them better than putting all their eggs in one basket. It. Never. Happened. Unless of course you think that players like Matt Cullen, Jurai Kolnik and Jaroslav Bednar were the answer. Bure was a great player for his time here. If nothing else we will always have memories like this:
By the time Gary Roberts came to the Florida Panthers he had played for 17 years in the NHL. He had won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, had a season where he scored 51 goals, had another season where he had 252 penalty minutes, and won the Bill Masterton Trophy as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes after coming back from a broken neck. Gary Roberts played the game one way, and one way only. Hard. He was one tough customer who had the talent to score, fight, and make you sorry you whacked him in the corner. When Gary was signed by the Panthers, Mike Keenan packaged Roberts with his childhood friend Joe Nieuwendyk in hopes that the two grizzly veterans would provide the leadership that was needed to get the Panthers back to the playoffs. Roberts for the brief time he was here became my all time favourite Florida Panther. Even though he battled injuries during some of his time here, he led by example, and was a great mentor for players like Nathan Horton. The line of Roberts, Horton and Olli Jokinen gave the Panthers some great offensive punch and snarl. I had always liked Gary, and met him at a Panther event shortly before his first season in South Florida began. I remember shaking his hand, and listening to him talk about what was ahead for this team, and how happy he was to be here, and be a part of the resurgence. One of the things that Gary did best was plant himself in front of the net, screening goaltenders and tipping pucks. No one has filled that role on a consistent basis since. He ultimately became disenchanted with the stifling offence by coach Jacques Martin, and was sadly traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Noah Welch. I really enjoyed watching Roberts before he came to the Panthers, but I appreciated him even more during his time here as I was able to watch him on a nightly basis. Gary was older, but Gary had one thing besides talent and work ethic that the team needed, and could ill afford to give up. Guts. I wish that more players played the game like him, and it’s too bad he got here as late in his career as he did. I never forgave JM the GM for that trade.
Listen to this from Don Cherry and Max Talbot as they talk about Gary, which came after he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Also, at the tender age of 41 Gary gives a young Ben Eager a lesson:
David Booth was drafted in the second round by the Florida Panthers following a successful collegiate career at Michigan State. After playing only 25 games in the AHL with Rochester Booth was called up during the 2006-2007 season for Florida and played in 48 games, but struggled to get 10 points. In 2007-2008 he began to show promise with 22 goals playing in the top six, and the following season he scored 31. Booth quickly had become a crowd favorite with his gifted smile, his boyish looks, and his style of play. Booth was known to come skating down the wing either with or without the puck and find his way to the net. He had some grit, and combined that with a little bit a talent to become a goal scoring leader for the Panthers. Then, in 2009, it happened. With his head down and looking away, he was crushed by Philadelphia Flyer captain Mike Richards. Regardless of what you think about the play itself, it was the way Booth hit the ice that did the most damage. The worst part about that night was the lack of response from the Panthers, but that’s all old news. Booth was never the same after that play, and sat out for most of that season with concussion issues. He was limited to 28 games and scored only 8 times. While he did come back completely symptom free (of concussions) the following season, he was a different player. No more going into the corners or the dirty areas. Even if he was given room to go to the net, he decided to play more against the wall, and take long slap shots or wrist shots that were easily lost in the goaltenders chest. In 2009-2010 he scored 23 goals, but was a god awful -31, which caught the ire of general manager Dale Tallon. After a slow start this past season, Booth was shockingly traded right before the start of a home game to the Vancouver Canucks for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. While many fans were upset, it was the right thing to do. We had seen the best of Booth, and he wasn’t going to get any better. Had he done a little more of this, he might have stuck around:
A three time Stanley Cup winner, it was amazing to think that John Madden was playing pond hockey in Minnesota last season before the Florida Panthers signed him in January for their playoff push. Though his best seasons were behind him, Madden wasn’t signed to score goals, and dish out assists. He was brought to the team for leadership, grit, and his defensive talents. While it took a little time to get himself into game shape, Madden ultimately fit right into the system, and was the perfect fourth line player who was also valuable on the penalty kill. At 39 he still had a bit of jump, but most of all it was his forechecking and faceoff skills that made him so important. And he was tough. How tough? Look at this collision with Tomas Kopecky during the playoffs:
Madden came back to finish this game. A true testament to his leadership, and will to win. I believe he had to have about 30 or so stitches after this hit, but wore the battle scars like the true champion that he is. It’s not known whether Madden will be back or not for this upcoming season. But if he’s not, hopefully he taught some of the young Panthers who remain what it takes to win.
Fun Facts: Of these six players that wore number 1o, three of them, Lowry, Booth, and Bure played for the Vancouver Canucks. Craig Ramsey, assistant coach of the Panthers wore number 1o while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Alex Del Vecchio played for 24 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings wearing number 1o. Finally one of the most handsome men in hockey Patrick Sharp who many think is “a 10″ proudly wears the number for the Chicago Blackhkawks.
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