By: Natalie Baj, University of Miami
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - With the anticipation of Monday’s double-header against the Nashville Predators brewing, diehard fans made their way to the Saveology.com Iceplex Sunday morning to take in the last practice. Some already have their eyes on a few players.
Sporting customized Panthers jerseys, complete with their last name, the Vezina family spent their morning watching the Panthers run drills and practice plays. Armand Vezina, his wife, and four children have been season ticket holders for three years. Vezina has his eye on 20-year-old defenseman, Jonathan Racine.
“I’ve been watching him [Racine] for the past two to three years,” said Armand Vezina. “He’s getting bigger, stronger and I personally feel his skills are just increasing.”
His son, Armand Jr., 14, admires forward Scott Gomez’s awareness on the ice and thinks it’s “pretty sweet” the way he moves the puck.
Impressed with the team’s overall progress so far, eight year old, Aidan Farro hopes Jose Theodore makes an appearance as goalie.
Although fans have different opinions on the players, the one thing they all have in common is their love for the Cats.
Proudly wearing her autographed jersey, Laynee Johnson cheers while seated in a wheelchair. “Let’s go Pan-thers! Let’s go Pan-thers! Let’s go Pan-thers!” shouts Johnson, accompanied by her mother, Angi. Last week she broke her leg while figure skating, but that hasn’t stopped her from cheering on the Panthers at practice and will not stop here from making it to the game on Monday.
“I am excited to go to the game tomorrow, after I get my cast done,” said Johnson.
Carol Koch first became a fan when the Panthers faced the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Stanley Cup final. Now, she is a season ticket holder and considers herself a diehard fan, and proudly displays her love for the Cats by pointing to her leg and the Panthers logo tattoo. Koch says a diehard fan is, “someone who goes to every game, records every game and watches all the road games.”
Not a diehard Panthers fan? Koch has a message for you. “Go to a game, it’s contagious!”
Don’t miss the pre-season opener against the Nashville Predators tomorrow at the BB&T Center. The first game is at 2:30 p.m. followed by the second game at 7 p.m. For more information, visit panthers.nhl.com.
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