This past Sunday I was able to participate in Puck Daddy’s Essentials and represent the Florida Panthers. I was honored and truly humbled that Greg Wyshysnki (Mr. Puck Daddy) tabbed our site for the project. In case you missed it, you can click here and enjoy a combined walk down memory lane, as well as a peak into the future. One thing I would like to clarify: The part where I talk about the food and mention the chicken tenders and fries coming out of the oven. I meant to type “fresh out of the kitchen”. I mean who wants oven baked fries?
David Lasseter, who has been my writing brother the longest here at the site, and is my popcorn spilling sidekick in the press box, also has his say. Here is Dave’s view of the “Essentials” for a second opinion of defining moments in Panthers history:
PLAYER – The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure is by far the most talented player to wear a Panthers sweater. In 223 games, he compiled 252 points, including consecutive seasons of 58 and 59 goals and made the Panthers worth watching nightly whether they were winning or not. You can give this team another 50 years and there still might be a better, more dynamic player to play for this franchise. He’ll finally take his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame this season.
SEASON – 1995-1996. This one really doesn’t need explanation, does it? A group of cast offs and a first-time head coach knocked sent Eric Lindros and Mario Lemieux to the golf course in successive rounds of the playoffs. Despite of the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final (screw you, Uwe Krupp!), even if there had been more success over the past decade, only a Cup winning campaign would top this magical season.
GAME – 6/1/96 at Pittsburgh, Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals. This is the game where, once again, everyone expected the clock to strike midnight for the Cinderella Panthers. Beating Boston and top-seeded Philadelphia was impressive enough for the third year franchise but certainly they wouldn’t knock off Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in a game 7 at the Igloo, right? Right?! Tom Fitzgerald’s blue line blast was enough to send the Cats to Stanley Cup Final thanks to yet another spectacular performance from John Vanbiesbrouk (39 saves). And somewhere out in space, you can still hear Lemieux whining that he was being held all series long.
GOAL – Bill Lindsay, Game 5 vs Boston Bruins, 4/27/96. The fact that it’s referred to as ‘The Goal’ in Panthers lore makes this a no brainer. His mid-air effort (ironic considering it was against a franchise whose most iconic moment is a leaping Bobby Orr) gave the franchise its first playoff series victory and kick-started the most improbable of playoff runs. I wish I had a nickel for every photo Lindsay has signed of that moment as I’ve seen one every sports bar I’ve been in from Miami to Tallahassee.
TRADE – 1/17/99 Ed Jovanovski (among others) for Pavel Bure (among others). In a classic ‘you have to give up something to get something’ trade, the Panthers sent one of the franchise’s favorite sons for their first (and to this point, their only) true superstar. Jovanovski spent the next 12 years in Vancouver and Phoenix before returning to Sunrise last season while Bure spent the better part of three years before being traded to the New York Rangers.
UNSUNG HERO – If one guy personified the persona of the early Panthers, a strong case could be made that it would be defenseman Paul Laus. Like many members he wasn’t the biggest or most skilled, but there weren’t many tougher than him and he backed down from no one. During the 1996-97 season, Laus racked up 313 PIMs and had 39 fights on his dance card. Ask a Panthers fan who their favorite player is and you’re just as likely to hear Laus as you are Vanbiesbrouck, Bure or any current player.
FRANCHISE VILLAIN – When you haven’t logged much time in the playoffs as a franchise, it’s hard to develop rivalries to the point of having a villain. That said, Mike Richards’ near decapitation of then Panther David Booth in October 2009 is still pretty fresh in every fan’s mind. Despite a 21 goal season in 2010-11, he’s never been the same player.
FIGHT – 1/16/2002 Paul Laus vs Bob Probert (Chi). Playing his entire career in a Panthers sweater, there wasn’t anybody Laus wouldn’t drop the gloves with To wit, he goes with one of the game’s greatest heavyweights, and proceeds to re-open a nasty gash on his forehead.
COACH – Doug MacLean by default. When a team has only made the playoffs four times in playoffs in 19 seasons, it seems to go without saying that they don’t have a history of great bench bosses. When in doubt, go with the guy that got you within four wins of the Stanley Cup. Dear Columbus, we’re sorry because we’re the reason he was given the keys to the Blue Jackets.
BROADCASTER – Radio play-by-play man ‘Red Deer’ Randy Moeller has been around the Panthers broadcasting for the better part of 12 years (and one year as a player). After sitting side saddle on the radio to now TV play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein , Randy finally got his chance to anchor the radio broadcasts and has become infamous for his pop-culture references following Panthers goals (even having them used in now-defunct Puck Daddy Radio’s Game Show Friday). Lucky for him, the Panthers didn’t score too many goals in his early days, allowing him to not run out of references for quite some time. These days, he saves the references for select goals.
ARENA BEHAVIOR/TRADITION/TREND – The most obvious tradition is the adoption of the rat as the team’s unofficial mascot thanks to Scott Mellanby. It had largely disappeared in the years following as the team sunk into mediocrity for the 2000s but, thanks to last season’s resurgence (and Panthers super fan Murphy Burch, an airline pilot whose never really stopped throwing them, even in opposing rinks) the rats returned big time, especially come playoff time.
ARENA FOOD – Unless you’re on the Club level (luxury suites, etc.) there isn’t much deviation from standard arena food. The same can be said for beer except for The Panther Bar, where the intermission show is shot from, which now features Stella Artois on draft.
SWAG – Despite a large presence of residents located from the northeast, the team made the effort to teach the game to those native Floridians who may have not been familiar to the game and its rules. This vhs was produced and distributed to teach the game to those who may have looked at a puck and wondered how you opened it.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht@joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick3, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis @RatTrickLewiz Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Adam Reid@AdamReid Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Justen Rosenberg @justenrosenberg, and Kris Eberwein @RatTrickKris. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.