With the Florida Panthers in Boston preparing to take on the Bruins tonight and the team enjoying their best season in franchise history, you can expect to see one of the biggest goals in franchise history shown on the broadcast.
On the eve of that goal’s 26th birthday to boot.
Billy Lindsay, forever known around these parts as the ‘Blonde Bomber,’ is often asked about his flying goal in Game 5 of the 1996 playoffs, one that helped the Panthers win their first-ever playoff series.
Lindsay’s goal was the difference in a 4-3 victory over the Bruins on April 27, 1996, at Miami Arena in Game 5 of that opening-round series.
It was a really big deal then — the expansion Panthers beating an Original 6 team in their first trip to the playoffs — and it has stood the test of time.
To some, anyway.
“I’m getting old,’’ Lindsay said with a laugh. “That was a long time ago. But there are still people come up to me to talk about it and they remember it so vividly. It is fun, the season ticket holders who have been around it since the beginning and have stuck with the franchise, the diehards, they mention it a lot.”
That may be an indictment of Florida’s performance in the decades to follow as it does the heroics of Lindsay.
Considering 1996 was the first and only time Florida has moved beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs helps the goal live on.
There’s also the fact that goal helped really get South Florida rallying around their new hockey team.
Those who were around back then remember how the Panthers had this region wrapped around their little finger.
Lindsay, who is part of the team’s radio broadcasts as well as an analyst for NHL Network, hopes this year’s version of the Panthers have even more highlights to be remembered.
“It’s a good thing that goal happened, a good thing that playoff series happened,” Lindsay told Florida Hockey Now. “But with this team and what is happening with them, it is time for that narrative to change. It’s a nice memory for me and it has lived on for a long time, but for me personally, it’s not going anywhere so I want a Stanley Cup for this fanbase and everything they have incurred down here.
”I love the goal, love that team, love everything we did at the start and were able to build. But, in my heart, I am a Panthers guy through-and-through. Those years of futility kind of hurts especially since I came back as a broadcaster.
“To see this success, I can understand the emotions the fans go through because I have been there with them. We saw some losing and now we’re seeing the winning. It’s an incredible feeling. I have to stop myself from imagining what a Stanley Cup parade will be like down here.
“I think about it every day. It just runs through my brain and I cannot push it away. How incredible would a boat parade or whatever be like down here? I’m ready for some new chapters, some new history. I’m proud of my goal, but I am ready for another great moment and a Stanley Cup championship would be the ultimate. I couldn’t win it as a player, so you want to be part of the organization that does it.
”It would be a dream come true for me if they were to win the Cup. I honestly believe I would tear up.”
Looking back at the goal, it really is a beauty and was compared to Bobby Orr’s famous ‘Flying Goal’ which was scored 25 years prior.
They built a statue depicting that Stanley Cup-winning goal in Boston.
Lindsay will not get one here, but this team could.
“The first four games I felt unbelievable. I had so much energy, it felt like I was floating on the ice,” Lindsay said. “It was playoff hockey and it was unreal. Game 5 was a Saturday afternoon and I couldn’t find my legs. I had no jump. I had much better games than that one, by far. I had to dip down to find some energy and then that moment happened.
“I got a chance and just took off down the wing. The proudest part for me was, it was the first time my parents were down here and in the building. They were in the stands and they meant so much to me.”
In the game that Saturday in Miami, Lindsay took on one of the top players in the NHL — and won.
As he raced up the wing, Lindsay was tripped by Ray Bourque.
But Lindsay kept his focus on the puck, and put it past goalie Bill Ranford.
“It was a chip shot that got over my glove,’’ Ranford said afterward. “Had I known he was falling down, I might have played it differently.”
Florida had the lead with 4:57 remaining in the game and held on for the victory.
It was not the only goal Lindsay ever scored in a playoff game, but it was his biggest.
“I really didn’t expect to score on that play,’’ Lindsay said. “When I took the shot, I was looking back to the referee to see if a penalty was going to be called. Not in my wildest dreams, honestly, did I think the puck was going in the net.
“That building was so loud and there was so much juice. That was my first experience in the playoffs and there was nothing like it. Listen, I scored one playoff goal and people still remember it and talk about it. If I had three 50-goal seasons, it might not be as important as that one goal. You create your legacy in the playoffs. It still hurts to have never won the Stanley Cup as a player. I still have some regrets in that aspect. To look back and have that special run with that team in that building, though, it is hard to explain.”
The Panthers would move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they beat Philadelphia in 6 games.
Florida then beat Pittsburgh in 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals where it was swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
Not bad for a team in just its third year of existence.
And, for you nostalgia fans, the 2022 postseason could see some familiar faces.
Aside from the Flyers, Florida could see Boston, Pittsburgh and Colorado in these playoffs.
Lindsay sees plenty of similarities between his team from 1996 and this one — although he admits the current Florida Panthers possess a lot more talent.
But the 1996 Panthers beat teams with more talent. This version of the Panthers is going to have to find their way when the playoffs start next week in Sunrise.
“They have to go through this. They have talent, but there is a lot of hard work to come,” Lindsay said. “What this group has is that same chemistry vibe that we had back in 1996. A lot of what you see on the ice happened was a product of what happened off the ice.
“A lot of our success was because of how close we were and you have to develop that. This group has fun, they play for each other. Good teams become great when you decide you cannot let the guy beside you down. When the guy next to you is working so hard you don’t want to let them down. That’s when good teams become great.
“Our stuff, the things we did in 1996 will never be erased. They will always be there. It is part of what we created and people of that generation will never forget it. I am just hoping a Stanley Cup happens for this organization. It will never take away from what we did, but you sure can add to it. And the more you add to it, the better.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT BOSTON BRUINS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: TD Garden, Boston
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Season series — Panthers lead 1-0-1: @Florida 4, Boston 1 (Oct. 27); @Boston 3, Florida 2 SO (Oct. 30)
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 57-35-6, 6 ties