Today’s random number selection is a list of players who have worn the number 20 for the Florida Panthers. Probably a few more players for the Cats have worn this number than you thought, and a few of them (as always) you didn’t even know were here. In the history of the NHL 445 players have had this number on their back, and for Florida there have been 10. As per usual, we’ll get things started in alphabetical order.
Ed Belfour: One of the finest goaltenders to have ever played between the pipes, the Florida Panthers acquired (signed as a free agent) Belfour in the twilight of his career in 2006. At the time Belfour was 41 years old, and had suffered from a wonky back in parts of the previous couple years beforehand, as he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. We actually met Eddie at a local Lexus dealership that September before the season started, and told him how glad we were to have him here, and wished him luck.
It was completely unknown how important Belfour was going to be during the season, as this was the first year of the “after Luongo” era for the Panthers. Alex Auld who was acquired in that trade was expected to get most of the playing time, but went down with a knee injury during the season, and was never the same after he came back. Not to mention his confidence was ruined by JM the GM. Belfour however won the hearts of Panther fans very quickly as the chants of “Eddie Eddie Eddie” rang through the arena whenever Belfour made a big save. Which was very often. Eddie the eagle won 27 games for Florida in that season, and at one point had started 27 games in a row. Quite a feat for the aging netminder who never complained.
I know most of you may not remember how good he was that season, but many of us will always remember this famous scene in a game against the Carolina (Diver)Canes. Too bad we had Belfour in the twilight of his career, but nonetheless we had one of hockey’s finest ever to play the game here in South Florida. Eddie started wearing this “odd” number for a goalie when he went to the Dallas Stars in 1998. Belfour won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars that 1998-1999 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011, a well deserved award for the fiery and focused competitor.
Sean Bergenheim: Bergenheim came to the Panthers in the 2011 free agent frenzy signing by Dale Tallon after coming off an impressive playoff performance with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bergenheim has been in the NHL for seven seasons, and with two other teams (Islanders, Lightning). His best regular season was in 2010-2011 when he scored 29 points. Although he was injured for part of last year he put up 24 for the Panthers with 17 of them goals. He is undoubtedly expected to surpass that this season, and if he can stay healthy, there’s no reason that the swift winger with a nose for the net, from Finland can’t hit 25.
Ryan Carter: Carter was picked up from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline in a deal that saw Cory Stillman go back to the Canes. Carter was never drafted and signed with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent in 2006 was/is a rugged centerman that gives any fourth line a jolt of energy. Carter played 19 games in total for the Panthers, and was claimed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils in October of last season, reuniting him with ex-Panther coach Peter DeBoer.
Craig MacDonald: MacDonald appeared in 34 games for the Panthers in the 2003-2004 season. He had three assists in those games, while averaging 12 minutes of ice time. Not much to say about Craig, as he was primarily a defensive forward with very little offensive skill. He was claimed off of waivers by the Boston Bruins in January of 2004, and ultimately finished his playing career with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009.
Josh Olson: A big (6′ 5″ 225 lb) left wing was drafted in the 6th round, 190th overall by the Panthers in 2000. Josh played in five games with the Panthers in 2003-2004. He had one goal on six shots and averaged 8 minutes, taking 41 shifts. His goal was scored at even strength, and his plus/minus was plus one. As you can see I am stretching the details.
Kamil Piros: Drafted in the 8th round by the Buffalo Sabres in 1997, Piros made his way to Florida via a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers for Kyle Rossiter in in 2004. Piros played in three games for Florida, and had one point. A goal, which he scored on his only shot in those three games. His shooting percentage was a cool 100%. After leaving the Panthers he bounced around the AHL and Europe, where last season he played in Sweden.
Brian Skrudland: A key member of the expansion Panthers, and a leader on the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, Skrudland led by example. He won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1985-1986, the rugged centerman wasn’t known for scoring, but more for his ability to play with some sandpaper. Good on faceoffs, and penalty killing as well as one of the best defensive forwards around, Skrudland was the perfect leader for the Panthers in their early years. Skrudland won another Stanley Cup in 1998-1999 with the Dallas Stars. Skrudland is back with the Panthers helping with player development.
Richard Zednik: Zednik was signed as a free agent by the Panthers in July 2007. Zednik had played for both Montreal and Washington, with a short stint with the New York Islanders before coming to Florida. Prior to his arrival, he had eclipsed the 20 goal mark three times, and it was thought that he could achieve that with the Panthers. In the 2007-2008 season that could have happened until this. One of the scariest moments I have ever watched, Zednik as you saw was extremely fortunate to race to the bench to get help. That most likely saved his life. JM spent the balance of the season and off season blaming Olli Jokinen for underperforming after the incident, as the Panthers missed the playoffs. Zednik returned the following season scoring 17 goals in 70 games.
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