SUNRISE — Aaron Ekblad said he spent the Florida Panthers off day Sunday “with my feet up” watching the Masters. In what could be the most shocking revelation of this season, Florida’s star defenseman said he was actively rooting for Brooks Koepka to win the tournament.
Back on March 25, the Panthers lost at home to the Rangers and Koepka went viral after Florida fan @David954FLA taped the pro golfer openly taunting Ekblad from a luxury suite following a New York goal.
Koepka, who lives in Jupiter and describes himself as a Panthers fan, had somehow procured an orange traffic cone and was holding it up in the air as he directed pointed words toward Ekblad.
The traffic cone represented Ekblad’s poor defensive play that night.
Although Ekblad was not pleased with the public display from someone with such high public visibility, their beef appears to be over.
Ekblad said on Monday that he placed a friendly wager on Koepka to win the Masters and was, obviously, rooting for him.
Koepka, Ekblad said, reached out and apologized for the outburst — Koepka admitted in a LIV press conference afterward that he had been enjoying his night out at the Panthers game and was “hydrated.’’
Ekblad thinks teammate Ryan Lomberg facilitated getting the two in touch.
“He texted me and apologized and I am cool with it,” Ekblad said following Florida’s morning skate Monday.
“That is part of being intense and maybe he had some money on the game. … At the end of the day, it’s just sports and we all get intense sometimes. It is what it is.”
This is definitely a change of tone for Ekblad. After the morning skate in Toronto on March 29, he told reporters the two were “not buddies. Will never be buddies.”
LIV Golf Superstar Brooks Koepka has a message for Aaron Ekblad.
— David R (@David954FLA) March 25, 2023
On Sunday, Koepka started with a 4-stroke lead at the Masters in the third round but ended up finishing tied for second as he coughed up the lead to Jon Rahm and never recovered.
Koepka losing cost Ekblad a couple of bucks.
“I actually bet on him to win the tournament but it didn’t work out,” Ekblad said, explaining he thought Koepka’s play at the LIV tournament in Orlando leading into the Masters made him a good choice.
“He did what he did and he apologized. Holding ill will against somebody and pulling negativity in your body is never a good thing.”
But, did the whole traffic cone thing bother him?
”Yeah, I mean, sure, maybe a little bit,” said Ekblad, who comes into Monday’s game with Toronto riding a seven-game personal point streak with two goals and eight points since that Rangers game.
“I had a bad play against New York — leave it there. Think about it for a minute, figure out what you can do better and then you move on, pick yourself off the mat.
“Since then, the team and the way I have played have been different. I’m just feeling good.”
So, too, are the Panthers.
Florida remains in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as it goes for a seventh consecutive victory tonight against Toronto.
The Panthers will have Alex Lyon back in net. His personal six game winning streak started in Toronto against the Leafs.
PANTHERS ON DECK
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Toronto leads 2-1): Maple Leafs 5, Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 47-36-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m.