If I Could Marry It, I Would

Every morning I wake up to what is becoming a gorgeous weather here in South Florida. Season is changing and no, we do not see leaves falling off trees, but we have the wind getting sliced by the palm trees. The sky is so blue that it leaves you starring at it for some time only to then notice how stupid you look as you are also getting blinded by the sun.

So how did I feel hockey in the air here in Florida? Traveling just about half hour from my house to Coral Springs where the Panthers hold their training camp at Incredible Ice, I finally stepped out of my father’s car and put on a Panthers sweatshirt in 85 degrees (F) weather, walking about 15 yards, only to have sliding doors open before me releasing a gust of freezing wind.

I finally smelled hockey as a shark smells blood. My heart filled with excitement, passion, and love, I thought to myself….. “If I could marry this game, I would”.………and then shortly thinking “as long as it is considered female”.

So! Hockey season is just around the corner. I had a blast going to Panthers training camp sessions of on-ice drills and skrimages. It was freezing cold in the facility, but I could have stayed there for hours just being behind the glass and watching players skate around, hearing the sweet sound of blades shredding the ice surface, and sticks slapping pucks around. But even without all that, just standing behind the glass and watching an empty ice rink still brought a smile to my face. It felt so peaceful and my mind was running miles a minute of what I was imagining to see on the ice. Who wouldn’t want to just stay there for hours looking at a peaceful ice rink?

I love this game. I love it very much, and having the season coming up soon just makes my life that much better.

So, on with the issues!

It is a miracle that this weekend Mats Sundin was barely mentioned. Now watch, I spoke to soon and someone on the Internet will have his name reported in news. Anyway, how about some Panthers hockey? Let me tell you what I have seen so far from this new look team.

It surely felt weird watching the Panthers skate without Olli Jokinen, but that feeling lasted very shortly. On Saturday, 1,200 people showed up to watch the Panthers practice, and I never heard the name Jokinen, or read it anywhere on the back of a jersey. There was too much intrigue in seeing new faces like Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, and Bryan McCabe. In addition, Michael Frolik, Shawn Matthias, Kendall McArdle also cought much attention. The lines I have seen so far were:

Stillman-Horton-Olesz

Booth-Weiss-Zednik

Peltonen-Kreps-Frolik

McArdlie-Whoeveritwas-Stewart

Glass-Matthias-Meyer

Frankly, I always thought Horts should have stayed as a center. If he was left-handed, then he’d be a fine fit for LW hockey, but he is a righty and though he’s done well so far in his career on the wing, there is more that he can do and center position allows him to do that. Stillman has looked fine so far, but he appears to be the kind of player that can fit with most players on his line. Unfortunately, Stephen Weiss is the same ole same ole. Always bringing good vision on the ice, makes sharp passes, but refuses to take his game to the next level called “having guts”. He gave up the puck a bunch of times to avoid getting hit. Booth looked fine and ready to go. The most impressive youngster so far as been Frolik. I was always high on this guy and found him to be a steal at #10 for the Panthers. In fact, I was so upset as a Rangers fan at the time thinking that the Rangers should have traded up to get him. Instead, they picked Bobby Sanguinetti who I was high on up until he had a questionable season, was not picked for Team USA, and therefore pegged him as a bust. Result? A near crucifixion by Rangers fans. Current status? Sanguinetti has shown nothing thus far in training camp. Maybe he will tonight against the Senators, but Mike Del Zotto has easily surpassed him by miles.

So, back to Frolik. He seemed to be the kind of player that does everything on the ice. He is not physical, but he has very sharp awareness and likes to be creative. I was right behind Craig Anderson recording some plays with my Flip Video (dandy little gadget), and Frolik made a hell of a pass to Peltonen who scored a goal. What a pretty play. I will upload it on YouTube later today (Panthershockey101).

It is make or break for Anthony Stewart, and so far he is making it. Paired with Kendall McArdle, these two play very well together and Shawn Matthias should be centering them. Thing is, Radek Dvorak and McArdle seem to bring the same to the table, except Devo has more experience to offer for a young team, so I expect McArdle to be sent down. Nonetheless, he surpassed my low expactations of him.

As for defense, Bryan Allen is not 100% healthy so he has not played the skrimages yet. But, I did watch him and a few more players do some heavy drills.

So far, McCabe has been paired with Noah Welch, who looks a lot bigger than I thought. Both have looked comfortable. Jay Bouwmeester was paired with Cullimore, who is putting up a good fight to earn a contract. I don’t get it. This guy was so solid with the Panthers last season, he is not asking much as far as money. He just wants to play. There are teams that have a thin defense (Phoenix) and they are missing out on a very solid defenseman. I am not sure who Cory Murphy played with, it seemed as if he’s been switched with some tryout players and prospects. Keaton Ellerby, highly touted prospect, seemed very comfortable and did not stand out much as far as making bad plays. Still, he is some years away.

And as for the new coaching? Wow. Talking about a hard ass. Peter DeBoer and his assistants really push this team to the max. The guy can be heard from outside the facility for crying out loud! “MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! (loud whistle) MOVE! GO!”. He appears to be a very demanding coach, and that is exactly what the Panthers needed.

So, that’s that for my Panthers report on what I have witnessed.

What about this Traverse City tournament for prospects? Talk about a load of crap. I was not one bit intrigued by this tournament. Were you? It was nice watching your team’s prospects (for me, in this case Del Zotto, Sanguinetti, Weise, Anisimov), but it was just bad hockey. The Atlanta Thrashers made the Gold Medal Finals? HOW!? Did anyone watch them play? I did for two games and they looked awful. Bogosian is definitely a special talent, but they were not that good and in fact got massacred by the Stars prospects. And talk about Coach Frasier (former coach of the Thrashers) behind the bench of the Thrashers prospects. That guy should be banned from hockey altogether. Why on earth leave goalie prospect Chris Carrozzi when he is getting hammered? I think the final score was like 8-3. That’s a joke. That’s not right. How does that help the guy? Anyway. This tournament pretty much proved that it means squat. I don’t think I’ll be watching it again.

The first pre-season game I saw was unfortunately just a 60 minute recap between the Rangers and Senators. Surely, you can look at this game in two ways. You can look at it the TSN.ca way showing how solid the Senators were to resist so many powerplays and still come out with a win. Or, you can look at it the Rangers way seeing as seven original NHL regulars expected to start for the Rangers were not dressed. Valiquette the back-up played the entire game, and the Sens faced a rather youngish team as they had the big three penciled to play tonight (Spezza, Heatley, Alffy), but Alfredsson did not make it due to precautionary measures. What did that game show for the Sens? They still have a magical offense. What did that game show for the Rangers? Brandon Dubinsky scored two pretty goals, and Del Zotto showed a lot of potential, more than expected. Tonight both teams face off again with a different line-up for the Rangers and possibly for the Sens as well. Rangers fans will see a familiar face on their team as well, Petr Nedved is back, but on a tryout basis. Wade Redden is expected to make his first appearance with the Rangers jersey tonight as well.

What is this talk about expansion in Europe for the NHL? What a load of parasite poo poo! How would this even work? I would not mind to actually see the NHL take over the Italian League, that would actually do a lot of good and increase the sport’s popularity in a market that is very open to sports, albeit regionally. You won’t get Rome to play hockey, but Milan and up? Yes.

What about a team in Las Vegas? It’s a good idea in a sense that it would be a money making machine for sure. It’s Las Vegas, and yes…..star players that like to live the big life would go there to live it all. I could actually see it work out. Which team would be headed that way though? Cancel the Florida Panthers. SSE is doing very well financially, and the Bank Atlantic Center is now ranked top 10 in the nation, I believe 7th, as far as entertainment venues. Tampa Bay has new ownership that seems to be very determined in wanting to stay there. The Atlanta Thrashers are starting to become my main target for one reason only. Don Waddell. Doesn’t ownership have any idea how brutal this team is because of him? If he is not fired, this team will be horrible, again, and lose more support. After Atlanta, the Carolina Hurricanes also seem to be a target.

Anyway, going back to expanding the NHL market in Europe, team expansion is not it. Forming a sister NHL league is not a good idea either. Why does the NHL even think about such then? Just a way to go on offense against Russia’s KHL.

I do have one solution that will flat out run over Russia’s attempt to beat the NHL. If there is one thing I know about European team sports is that teams love to be the best in Europe. Ring the bell to some? Yes, I am talking about soccer as an example with the Champions League. So many clubs from different countries play, and only one gets to be the #1 in the continent. Well, why doesn’t the NHL follow it? Russia will be jaunty enough to accept the idea, and other hockey leagues in Europe will see it as a way to gain money from it as well since NHL teams will come to play in their stadiums. Who wouldn’t want to watch the Detroit Red Wings play against Frolunda of Sweden? It is also a big motivator for young European talent to be drafted and play to become the best team in the hockey world. Also, this will expose the weakness the Russian league has in that it will never be as good as the NHL.

I say, go for it. It sounds like a kick ass idea to me. It is a way to increase the market and put hockey on the map for worldwide sports gaining more attention in Europe.

I would like to give thumbs up to some of you HTR members that came up with some very good articles. HTR member Bure96 did a good one last time. Good job, keep up the good work.

And now, I pronounce myself husband, and hockey as my wife with the Panthers Ice dancers.

Thank you all for reading as always,

Micki Peroni

Vice-Administrator


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