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Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins to Honor Patric Hornqvist Tonight

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Hornqvist
The Florida Panthers will honor the career of Patric Hornqvist tonight before they play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hornqvist spent the final three seasons of his NHL career with the Panthers after playing six years — and winning the Stanley Cup twice — with Pittsburgh. // AP Photos Gene J. Puskar and Jeff Roberson

SUNRISE — With the Pittsburgh Penguins only coming to town once this season, Friday night seemed to be the best time for the Florida Panthers to officially honor the career of Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist spent the final three seasons of his NHL career with the Panthers after Bill Zito pulled off his first deal as Florida’s new GM back on Sept. 24, 2020.

Zito brought Hornqvist in to help remake Florida’s culture.

He certainly did that.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, obviously missed him.

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“He is a guy who brought it every single night,” Sidney Crosby said after practice on Thursday afternoon. “He had a lot of passion, was fun to have around the rink. He did whatever it took to win games and it was a lot of fun playing with him over the years. … There is an energy and passion he brings. He loves being at the rink, being around the guys. You see any team he played for, everyone feels the same way about him. That says a lot about him and the person and player that he is.”

Said Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan: “I don’t know if there is a more positive person on the planet than Horny. He had an energy about him that was contagious. Every day he walked into the rink was a great day. I always loved that about him. He had an incredible passion to play the game and was such a huge part of our Stanley Cup teams. He had an uncanny ability to drag us into the fight. That was his nature. I’m glad they are honoring and I am glad we get the opportunity to celebrate with him. He is so deserving of it.”

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Hornqvist won the Stanley Cup twice with Pittsburgh with his goal in Game 6 clinching the championship in 2017 against his former team, the Nashville Predators.

Nashville made Hornqvist the final pick of the 2005 draft and he ended up scoring 106 of his 264 NHL goals with the Predators.

When the Penguins started shopping him in following the 2019-20 season, Zito jumped.

Although it took a little convincing to get Hornqvist to waive his no-movement clause, once he decided he was better off being somewhere he was wanted, he was all-in with the Panthers.

Hornqvist ‘Blindsided’ by Trade: Panthers Wanted Me, Penguins Did Not

“I am almost at a loss for words when it comes to Patric Hornqvist,” said Ryan Lomberg, who signed on with the Panthers a few weeks after the Hornqvist trade in 2020.

“He is a champion, a leader, someone who won a couple Stanley Cups. If you were lucky to be around him, that comes as no surprise. My first summer here, it was three months before the season and it was like training camp. He was pushing everyone, pushing the pace, yelling at guys. He has never changed and that’s why he is a champion. We were lucky to have him for a couple of years and that’s why he is still a part of it. The things he taught us as a group is why we have success.’’

Hornqvist scored what would be his final NHL goal in Florida’s 2022-23 season-opening win against the host New York Islanders before suffering a pair of concussions within the span of a month.

Coach Paul Maurice said it was tough seeing Hornqvist not be able to suit up and play anymore after he sustained that second concussion Dec. 3, in Seattle.

Florida Panthers Thankful Patric Hornqvist is Still Around

But having Hornqvist still be with the team — and suit up for practices, work with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and help Anthony Duclair return from his Achilles tendon injury — was good for both Hornqvist and the Panthers.

Hornqvist could not play but he was bound and determined to do what he could to help the Panthers.

And he still is.

“Patric is the kind of person whom you wanted to create a unique solution to a problem,” Maurice said. “He was pretty sure early on that he wasn’t coming back, but he was not 100 percent. He earned the right to take his time. What do you do with that? He was out there with the guys like he might come back and he was more sure he wasn’t coming back. He is a guy you be creative with to keep him around your group.’’

He officially announced his retirement over the summer and joined the Panthers as part of the hockey operations department as a development consultant and scout.

Hornqvist was credited for helping get Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour back in quick fashion as well.

“He is visible here,’’ Maurice said. “He is not with the organization and no one ever sees him. He got those two guys back. That’s tangible help. It is important for the players here to see a player who gave a lot and was a big part of the team and the community.

“He wasn’t here 15 years, but he is still with the organization and being treated with an awful lot of respect. All earned. As a player, when your career comes to an end, for some of them, it’s very quiet. You’re not part of it anymore. Patric did it the right way and worked really hard, was committed to this team and the organization. The relationship continues and he is still part of the team.”

ON DECK

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS 

  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series — At Florida: Friday. At Pittsburgh: Jan. 26; Feb. 14.
  • Last Season: Penguins won 2-1
  • All-time regular season series: Penguins lead 56-36-7, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Sunday at Columbus, 1 p.m.

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