EN ROUTE TO LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — Today is an important day for me for several reasons. First, it is the one year anniversary of the day the Florida Panthers approved my credential for the 2021-22 season.
It was a day I did not see coming for at least a few more years and I will be forever grateful for the memories I made over the last year.
The other: It is my 21st birthday.
To be able to say that I have done everything that I have done before I’ve reached the legal age to drink is something I could not have made up in my dreams. I worked so hard to get to this point after I had to stop playing the game nearly a decade ago, but I did not expect things to go the way they have.
Now, I sit here writing this column on a plane, on my way to celebrate the day with my friends and family back home on Long Island before we get back to business in Elmont to start my second season on the beat.
NHL schedule makers, if you are reading this, I owe you a drink for that one.
Needless to say, this does not happen without each and every one of you guys reading this. You guys have been supporting me since the first day I started writing about this team and I always appreciate the kind words a lot of you guys give me over the years.
I may be a Long Islander by way of Oklahoma but you all have done an amazing job of making Broward County feel like another home to me.
When I get together with my friends and family today, there are going to be a lot more things to celebrate than just myself.
It’s a day to celebrate a new season of delivering the news and features that the most underrated hockey fanbase in the world desires.
But I can’t celebrate too hard. We’re back to work at UBS Arena tomorrow morning.
Now, let’s take a look around the league.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
Josh Mahura flew in from the west coast on Monday after being claimed by the Florida Panthers and joined his new teammates for practice Tuesday in Sunrise.
While he said the climate change from Anaheim to Sunrise was minimal, he now finds himself a couple hours further from a Disney park…
— If Mahura wants to drive to WDW, he could do so in a car or truck from AutoNation — the new (road) jersey sponsors of the Panthers.
— Due to cap concerns, the Panthers may have to play shorthanded if anyone misses a game due to injury.
Carter Verhaeghe left halfway through practice yesterday and, while Panthers coach Paul Maurice is not concerned he misses Thursday’s game, it is a possibility that Florida open with 11 forwards and six defensemen.
— Speaking of the cap crunch, Florida cannot currently sign Eric Staal after the veteran forward had an impressive camp on a PTO.
— Anthony Duclair and the Hockey Diversity Alliance seek to end racism in hockey.
— Check out the FHN YouTube channel RIGHT HERE — and hear from Maurice and Mahura following Tuesday’s practice in Sunrise.
More to come each day.
NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
The NHL had its official “Opening Night” last night — although the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks kicked things off in Prague over the weekend — and the games on display were pure entertainment.
In the early game, Mika Zibanejad put up a dominant display against the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the New York Rangers to a 3-1 victory in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final.
The late game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Los Angeles Kings was something to behold.
And I am not just talking about the Kings’ grotesque silver chrome helmets. (Personally, I’m just thankful Vegas did not try to match them with their gold chrome domes…)
Anyway, a 1-1 game at the second intermission turned into an all-out goal fest, highlighted by some smooth passing and a clinical display of patience by Sean Durzi and Anze Kopitar. Mark Stone got the last laugh, striking with 26 seconds to go to put Vegas on top for good.
Hockey is back, folks. Cheers.
— NYI Hockey Now: Young defenseman Robin Salo says the New York Islanders’ new system under Lane Lambert fits his play style.
— Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Wondering how the Pittsburgh Penguins’ opening-night roster looks? PHN scribe Dave Molinari has you covered.
— Washington Hockey Now: Washington Capitals forward Aliaksei Protas cannot believe he made the opening night roster.
— Boston Hockey Now: The Boston Bruins signed former Florida defenseman Anton Stralman to a one-year, $1 million contract.
— Montreal Hockey Now: MHN’s Marc Dumont tackles the five biggest questions facing the Montreal Canadiens.
— Philly Hockey Now: Long-time Philadelphia Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi makes 10 fearless predictions for the 2022-23 season.
As if covering the 2022-23 Flyers is not a fearless enough feat…
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
- When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: UBS Arena; Elmont, N.Y.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 54-32-11, 8 ties