Monday, January 24, 2011


Florida Panther Hockey

(Left to right) Jim Hulton, Jamie Pringle, David Hurst

With little difficulty, we were able to leave Fort Myers and reach the Bank Atlantic Centre in less than two hours. It does involve a route that goes due south on the “I 75” to begin with, followed by a dogleg to the left. Then it’s a matter of straight ahead through “Alligator Alley”.

They are serious about this. On a warm afternoon, you can see the gators sunning on the sides of the creeks alongside the highway. There are fences on the right hand side of the highway to keep the alligators contained. There are higher fencers on the left hand side to keep the panthers off the road. The alligators have learned to respect their situation; however, the same cannot be said for the panthers. According to the latest edition of the Fort Myers News Press, there have been two panthers killed on that stretch of road already this year.

A former Picton resident, Jamie Pringle, is an assistant coach with the Panthers. Pringle began his coaching career in the County, at one time wrestling with a Bantam House League team, with Jason Parks as an assistant coach. Darren Dayton, Mike Foley, Kelly Haight, Tyler Carter, David Hurst and a host of other county boys made Pringle’s life interesting at that time. He is in his third season with the Cats, following stints with Hockey Canada in its National Program, with the Belleville Bulls and with the Kingston Frontenacs.

Another assistant coach is also a familiar figure in the Belleville area. Jim Hulton coached the Bulls from 2000-2003, then moved on to coach the Frontenacs. The York University graduate also coached the Royal Military College Redmen for a year. A couple of stints in the OHL with Mississauga are also on his resume.

The Panthers have just completed a lengthy home stand. The last three game at home were enough to put head coach Peter DeBoer in the cardiac ward. All were lost by one goal: one on a shootout goal, one in overtime, and one in the last minute of regulation play. Mind you, the Panthers have won a slew of games this year by slim margins.

That does not alleviate the frustration for the coaches, the fans, and the players. After the second game, coach DeBoer had this to say: “We need to find a way to win a few of these types of games, and build on it. It seems that when we get the lead, the other team pushes back, and we don’t. It’s a matter of instilling some confidence in the players. With a break or two, we could have extended the lead. Then the players could loosen up a little bit, and play a little looser.”

The Panthers wrap up the first half of the season on Wednesday against the Bruins in Boston. The all Star game is on the 29th of February. They then face the Leafs on the first of February, and the Habs on the second. They return home on the eighth of February to face the Blues.

For those of you heading to sunny climes for a week or two this winter, a Panthers game should be a must. There are many great attractions at the rink itself, including a dozen very perky cheerleaders. Better still, the deal of a lifetime: tickets, hot dogs, sodas, for four people for less than sixty bucks! I wonder what the damage would be in Hogtown for the same deal, once you pay the scalper.

We chatted briefly with Shawn Matthias, the fine young Belleville Bulls’ graduate after the game. He was busy preparing for the three game road trip before the break.
We left Jamie Pringle in the midst of it: rounding up his kids to get them home to bed, and preparing to watch hours of video to help his team in the weeks to come.
All in all, a most worthwhile hockey experience in Fort Lauderdale. And right beside the largest Mall in Florida! (Oops! Maybe I shouldn’t have written that!)

James Hurst
January 24, 2011

Great story! Thanks for the plug Jimmy! While you are in Sunrise, Check out the vintage sports store at the Sawgrass mall...Unbelievable amount of baseball jerseys.
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