SUNRISE — Chase Priskie literally grew up with the Florida Panthers.
We all know the story by now.
Thursday night, the South Florida native will make his NHL debut when the Panthers play host to the Washington Capitals.
Priskie, 25, becomes the first homegrown South Florida player to suit up for the Panthers in franchise history.
The Panthers broke the news by running a graphic on their electronic marquees outside the arena on Wednesday night.
Priskie saw the sign when he drove into the arena Thursday morning and did a double-take.
“I stopped for a second,” he said. “I didn’t think it was real.”
The Charlotte-Fort Lauderdale shuttle Priskie has been running on the past few weeks finally gets its payoff.
Priskie, who grew up a Panthers fan in Pembroke Pines, has been called up from AHL Charlotte three different times this season.
The first time was when he was recalled for the opener along with Matt Kiersted after Markus Nutivaara went on the injured list.
Kiersted played and Priskie was sent back to AHL Charlotte.
When Florida put Olli Juolevi on the IR, Priskie came back.
Although Priskie was returned to Charlotte following Florida’s game in Boston on Saturday night, he flew home to Florida — along with Maxim Mamin — on Tuesday.
With Radko Gudas out of the lineup Thursday, Priskie will play.
“I’m mostly just speechless,” Priskie said Thursday morning. “You dream about this day forever. You put in a lot of hard work and with some luck you’re able to achieve it. I’m going to just try and be in the moment and play.”
Thursday, his much-anticipated NHL debut will come on home ice — and it will come at the arena he was raised on hockey in.
“I think that arena is one of the most underrated places in hockey,” Priskie said of FLA Live Arena in 2020.
“We may not sell out every game like in Montreal or something, but the Panthers have helped grow this game exponentially since they came here in 1993.
“It has impacted so many people’s lives. Just look at my life. It is hard to express. This team is so valuable to our community. People who aren’t from here may not understand that. A lot of kids grew up trying to emulate those Panthers players over the years.”
Priskie grew up in Pembroke Pines and started skating at Pines Ice Arena.
He played for numerous South Florida youth teams including the Jr. Panthers, Golden Wolves, Jr. Everblades and others.
Priskie played a year of prep hockey in Broward as he was a freshman at North Broward Prep under Peter Worrell. Priskie moved north as a sophomore and earned a scholarship to Quinnipiac where he was captain for two seasons.
A few months after signing as a free agent with Carolina, Priskie came home as he was part of the Vincent Trocheck trade with the Hurricanes.
Priskie ended his 2019-20 season with Florida’s AHL team in Springfield before joining the Panthers’ practice group in the postseason bubble.
— Chase Priskie (@priskie4) February 24, 2020
Last year, he split his time between Syracuse and the Florida taxi squad but did not dress for a game.
This preseason, Priskie got to skate at the Sunrise arena wearing the Panthers sweater for the first time.
“I am excited any time I get to dress in the NHL,’’ he said before playing against the Nashville Predators. “To have it be at home, yeah, that’s pretty special.
“I’m just ready to play some hockey. I think it’ll be pretty emotional even though it doesn’t count as a regular season game. But, at the end of the day, it’s just hockey and I’m going to try and have some fun. There’s not much to it.”
Worrell, who attends a lot of Panthers games, is expected to be at the arena on Thursday night.
Don’t be surprised if he joins Priskie’s family and friends in what will be the loudest luxury suite in the arena.
“When he does make his NHL debut,” Worrell said in 2020, “it’s going to be a lot easier for me to be in the building.”
Priskie will also make his NHL debut against the team that drafted him. Although he was taken in the sixth round by the Capitals in 2016, after returning to Quinnipiac for his senior season, he opted to sign with Carolina as a free agent in 2019.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t thankful to the Capitals for a fantastic memory.
“It was a crazy day,” Priskie said of the day he was drafted. “I had interviewed with a few teams, but I was a double-overager and had already been passed up when I was 18 and 19, so my hopes weren’t too high. We had the NHL Network on at the house and the draft was on. I walked downstairs and my name flashed on the screen and the house just erupted. Then Washington called and my phone was blowing up.
“It’s something you work for your whole life. That recognization, it was one of the happiest days in my life. I had not made it, but for a kid growing up in South Florida who dreamed of playing in the NHL, I felt I was one step closer. It was like something out of a movie.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
WASHINGTON CAPITALS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560-AM
- Last season: Did not play