Excuse me if this post sounds a little PR-ish, for that’s not my intention. I had the pleasure of attending last year’s Ice & Dice at the Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale, and I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the coolest – and personally most anticipated – experiences ever.
I believe they had to cancel it one year, but this is an event that happens annually. For some backstory, this had been something I always wanted to go to growing up. I’m talking: begging, pleading… I even whipped out the ol’ puppy dog eyes once or twice, to no avail. Unfortunately it either fell on a school night or it was too pricey to make it realistic, but last year I made it an utmost priority. I actually made a special trip down from where I’m living in Connecticut to go, and it did not disappoint even considering the highest of hopes I had for it.
It’s a formal event during which you can interact one-on-one with not only the players, but also the broadcast team, the coaches, etc. I went with my father and we spent most of the night at the same table with Bill Lindsay and his wife, both of whom were so nice and great company. I also got to speak with Steve Goldstein, Randy Moller and head coach Kevin Dineen. Especially after meeting them, I only have the greatest things to say about all three.
Then of course, the main reason I always wanted to go, the players are introduced one by one. Following their introductions they spread out amongst the table games, often times taking on dealer roles. I had a mental checklist of everyone I absolutely had to meet, but I far exceeded that list and I think I met close to everyone on the roster, excluding maybe one of two.
It was such a fun evening, partly because there really aren’t many other opportunities like this event where you can personally interact with the team you know and love. I had pretty much everyone sign the front of my jersey, and I asked Tomas Kopecky to sign the two pucks he had flipped over the glass for me at warm-ups in Boston and New York, respectively.
Aside from that I remember having lengthy chats with Brian Campbell and Shawn Matthias. The Cats had recently returned from a hefty road trip, and a tough one, so there was plenty to delve into. Hearing about those types of things from a player outside of what you typically get from an actual interview really broadens your perspective on the ups and downs of an 82-game schedule.
A silent auction is held throughout the night, with items ranging from Florida Panthers memorobilia to game-signed jerseys from other superstars across the league. Last year, they raffled off one gift basket for every player, containing each of their favorite indulgences (movies, types of candy, even their liquor of choice). Again, it was cool to see the players’ personalities come forth in a number of different ways.
The asthetics of the event are also quite pleasing, with a variety of hor-dourves being offered as soon as you walk in. There were also more substantial main courses followed by a wide variety of mini desserts. Additionally, there is a full bar and patrons of age are offered two free drink vouchers upon arrival.
I have to comment on the party favors as well, as mine are currently on display in my apartment (yes, ‘favors’ is plural because I couldn’t help myself and snagged two, shhhh). Keeping consistent with last year’s “We See Red” campaign, everyone in attendance took home a “RED Splash” bottle of wine, all of which were signed by a player. I took those signed by Sean Bergenheim and Kopecky, to go with my freshy signed pucks.
Last year, Ice & Dice took place during the season in early December. This year, the rebranded Face-Off Casino Gala Night is scheduled right before the regular season starts on Wednesday, October 10 at the Bank Atlantic Center. My feeling is that they want to help promote the new Club Red all the while getting fans even more excited for the return of Panthers hockey.
Last but not least, Stanley the Panther is there with his ever-cheery smile and all the proceeds are donated to charity. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed it last year, as did my father. Tickets are $150 a piece, but in my opinion, well worth every penny. I’m planning to make another special trip down for it, so I hope to see you all there!
That is, unless this potential lockout looming takes more from the fans than regular season games. Fingers crossed on both accounts.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to this event? Let us know in the comments!
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