Views From The Bench: Cinderella Cats Could Make Return


The year was 1996. I did not know the difference between a hockey puck and an Oreo cookie.

A group of inspired young men introduced a football town to Lord Stanley’s Cup. The most attention that was brought to the team during their playoff run was by a rodent in the locker room.

I was indoctrinated into the hockey world that year as I fell on the bandwagon. I was applauding every goal by Scott Mellanby and I was shocked at the saves that John Vanbiesbrouck was making between the pipes. He was getting up in age, but still showed the agility and grace of a young Mikhail Baryshnikov.  The Beezer was a story in and of himself. Like fine wine he just kept improving with age.

I was a big fan of the big hits and loved it when Paul Laus would mix it up with someone on the ice and then take his gloves off. I loved his fights with Kevin Hatcher of the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the Panthers clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals by winning in Pittsburgh, it was perfect. Laus kicked some serious butt and they helped take down a dynasty, even if it was just momentarily.

Until then, I watched hockey only hoping that a boxing match would break out and attended games because it was cold in the arena and I could have my adult beverage stay cool for an extended period of time. It was also easy to get concessions at your seats and the Panthers made dining at a sporting event an Olympic sport.

Unfortunately, the next few years were not too kind for Panther fans, as you all recall, as like he did with the Marlins after they reached their pinnacle in 1997, Wayne Huizenga sold off all the parts and dumped payroll like you dump the puck into the other team’s zone when killing a penalty.

That was the end of my love affair with hockey and with South Florida professional sports for a few years.

How many times do you have to have your heart broken before you finally just withdraw from having any feelings at all?

My first son was born that year and I always said that the Panthers might have had the Beezer, but I had the Cheeser. All you parents know what I am referring to. For those of you that have yet to attain Parenthood, just ask yours.

In my 30 years of sports journalism, I have never covered professional hockey until last season I was called in to write one story on the fan experience at the BB&T Center.  I decided that when my heart was sufficiently mended, I would give some more allegiance to the Panthers, as well as the Marlins. With that in mind, I will be taking over as the new Editor of the site and I welcome your comments and feedback. Please follow us on Twitter and give us your suggestions on what you would like to see on your Florida Panthers website.

Journalists are supposed to be objective and the press box is to remain neutral. However, let’s face facts, local writers want the local teams to win. Most of them become fans of the team and it is much easier to write about a team that is winning than a team that is always losing.

I look at this team and I see that it is loaded with talent and they play the game for the love of the sport. That is what all professional athletes should be doing. It is not just the money or the glory.

Looking at these kids, they play because they love the beauty of the sport. To watch Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad do what they do at such a young age, and on this level, it is just inspiring. That is what we as fans should be looking for. The sport is a science. These kids are mad scientists on the ice and they are looking for the perfect formula to entertain us and to generate wins. They deserve support of the fans and the support of management to provide them with the necessary ingredients to win.

We have about a third of the season remaining. I hope that you find our website to be a source of inspiration for your love of the game and as a place that you can turn to to find stories on your favorite NHL team.

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