Monday, October 12, 2009

Feel the Growl

It all started one fateful day in 1996 when at age 13 I walked in on my mother watching a hockey game (ha, you thought I was going to say something else, didn't you?!). Confused, I interrupted the fast-paced ice dance with a, "What?! Why are you watching this?!" She laughed and then went on to explain how when she was a child she was forced to watch hockey by her father, so now that our native team had made the playoffs, she thought she'd watch to see what happend. I was naive then because I then, too, thought it was important to watch. In time I would find out that she does that with ALL playoff sports, usually rooting for the underdog if a Florida or Boston/New England team isn't involved. She's a nonconformist like that. 

Ever since then I was hooked, but time was running out! I had to choose a favorite player! But who? I knew nothing of any of them. Afterall, I had been a hockey fan for what, a day? It was then that the announcers began talking of the rookie Radek Dvorak and his 13 goals even though he obviously subconsciously preferred hitting the posts over scoring. "That's him! He's my favorite!"

Here we are, 13 years later and he's still my favorite. Let the record show, though, that it's not because he's any good. I made a commitment to him and by God, I will keep it. I could now go into the Florida Panthers hockey organization and how badly they've screwed up the roster since winning Eastern Conference champions back then in 1996, but that's a different blog. 

I've been to many Panthers events from the party they held at the Miami Arena back in '96 after winning the conference; to NHL Breakout '98 and leaving with a z-ball hit by #5 Gord Murphy; to many autograph signings with former players including John Vanbiesbrouck, Paul Laus, Rhett Warrener, Ed Jovanovski, Robert Svehla, Billy Linsday, Tom Fitzgerald, Ray Sheppard, Radek Dvorak, David Booth (and winning his jersey that same night); to the reunion game in '98 and meeting some of them all over again years later, but there's one even that I haven't had the privilege of attending... until this past Saturday.

Opening night, ladies and gentlemen of the jury (or as it's written in my new favorite language, Stenography, LAIRJ). Could this be true?! I don't recall ever attending an opening night! How exciting! Lots of die-hard fans, lots of give-aways, over-priced food and beer and in this case, lots of losing! As much as I adore my crappy native Florida Panthers, I'm a hockey fan first and foremost so having Brian invite me to go and watch my Panths battle one of my childhood favorite goalies, Martin Brodeur, was a real honour and treat. It means a great deal to me, so I thank him for letting me accompany him and act a fool (I'm a psychopath in a hockey arena). 

On that note, GO PANTHERS! And to the Panthers management and coaching staff: Stop building a team that has potential and then selling them for players with half the talent. You will never get into the playoffs for long (if at all) if this is kept up. Bryan Murray is gone, act like it. 


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