Monday, November 18, 2013


On the Road again...

Between forty and fifty times a season, National Hockey League players stuff all of their gear in their hockey bags. The bags are then carted to a truck, loaded onto an airplane, and carried to the next town on the schedule. Fortunately for the players, the trainers and equipment managers are responsible for getting the bags into the right locations at the arena. (One equipment manager once told me he would prefer to be the equipment manager of a basketball team. Think about it: shorts, top, warm up suit, shoes, a roll or two of tape. It all fits in a small gym bag!)


Following their victory over the Ducks last week, the Florida Panthers tossed their stuff into the bags. I caught up with former Belleville Bull Shawn Matthias as he finished zipping up the bag. He was quite pleased with the result of the game. The Panthers have struggled this year, to the extent that the coaching staff was replaced last week. General Manager Dale Tallon also let it be known that he expects more from each player every night.


Matthias scored his second goal of the season on a nifty play from the slot. The Panthers trailed by two goals heading into the second period. Unfortunately, that situation has been all too common for the Cats this year. Matthias received a pass from Brian Campbell, wheeled around and threw a backhand shot at the Duck’s net. It slid under Frederik Andersen’s pad to put the Panthers on the board. Florida scored twice more gain the victory.


Tim Thomas made some fine saves in the third period to lock down the win. One of their best players, Ryan Getzlaf, was missing from the Duck’s lineup, as was Matt Beleskey. I was looking forward to chatting with Beleskey, another former Belleville Bull. He was injured in a pre-season game, and is on a conditioning assignment. Teemu Selanne did skate for the Ducks, in his final visit to Sunrise, Florida.


Selanne has experienced a remarkable career in the NHL. He scored 76 goals in his rookie season, and has continued filling nets since that time. He currently has 678 goals in his career, a few behind the incomparable Jaromir Jagr. He needs 12 goals to reach Mario Lemieux, who stands in ninth place on the all time list. This is Teemu’s 22nd season in the NHL, and he has accumulated 1 437 points in 1 401 games. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires. You can take that to the bank.


Like so many of the Panthers, Matthias has struggled somewhat this year. “We’re really pleased to get this one for Coach Horachek. It’s his first win. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling as we head out on a five game road trip. We have put ourselves in a tough situation, so we are really happy with this win.” Someone asked about the puck on his goal. “Soupy threw it to a fan,” he chuckled. I asked Bryan Campbell about it, and he also smiled about the situation. There will be others, they both know that.


Coach Horachek was also pleased with his first win. “We played with a lot of energy, and a lot of gumption. Up to this point, we have not played up to our capabilities. There have been too many unforced errors. We need to keep our emotions in check. We’re looking for more consistency.”


The Panthers knocked off the Colorado Avalanche on the weekend, yet another team near the top of the heap. But, as Matthias hinted, they will need to play really well to get themselves into playoff contention in the near future. Especially on the road.


James Hurst

November 18, 2013


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