VanMurph's View: Opening Weekend
Monday, 10.13.2008 / 9:47 AM / Blogs
|Murphy and Vanessa Burch|
Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.
Once, when I was a young boy, I had the opportunity to walk onto the baseball field at Golden Park in Columbus, GA. Until this past Saturday night’s home opener, that was the last time I’d ever stood on the surface of a professional sports venue.
As Vanessa and I walked toward center ice to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Panthers game, I could hear applause and thousands of clanging cowbells. As we neared the end of the red carpet, it happened: The “car crash” syndrome. You know the one. Right before impact, everything goes into slow motion, and you can’t hear anything. In a darkened arena, with the brightest of bright spotlights shining directly on center ice, the only thing I could see was the Panthers logo at my feet, and Nathan Horton skating toward me. I leaned forward, dropped the puck, shook Nathan’s hand, and it was over. I could hear again! The first thing I heard was the familiar sound of Bill Murphy’s voice directing us to prepare for the National Anthem. I stood there, neck craned, looking up at Old Glory, singing the Star Spangled Banner with the starting lineup of my favorite team in the entire world standing on the ice directly in front of me. I felt like I was 10 years old again.
Once off the ice, we hurried through the bowels of the arena, quickly making our way around to the opposite side where our seats are located. As we walked in and looked up at the scoreboard, I saw what had to be the cruelest of typos; the Thrashers had 8 shots-on-goal, and the Panthers had zero? Surely there must’ve been a mistake, right? I mean, in the time it took us to wait for an elevator and walk a 1000 feet, the birds had managed to pepper T-Vo with EIGHT SHOTS? While I’m certain the penalties that caused the 5-on-3 situation to unfold would’ve turned my stomach to mush, watching our goalie keep his net free of pucks would’ve been worth the anxiety! Oh well, I hope one of my friends recorded the game!
As the night progressed, the dichotomy between the atmosphere in the building that evening, and the atmosphere we’ve grown to expect, was clearly evident. First, I didn’t see a single Thrashers jersey. In an arena where the out-of-towners can sometimes outnumber Panthers fans, not seeing the other team’s colors at every turn was quite refreshing. Second, when Atlanta scored their two goals, my ears didn’t detect a single cheer. In fact, until I saw the referee signal the first goal, I didn’t know the puck had gone in. And on their goal in the second period, the only way I knew they’d scored was when their players lifted their hands into the air. It was a very nice change from the past. Yeah I know, it was only Atlanta, but I’m telling you, the fans of this team ARE going to take this arena back this season! I’ll write a little more in depth about that later this week, but suffice it to say that what we saw last night in terms of fan participation is the way it should be every night.
In my opinion, the team looked good. I’ll leave the X’s and O’s to those more qualified than me to make those observations, but I will tell you that the Dump and Chase appears to dumped and gone. I absolutely love to see our guys out there driving the puck in deep, hitting hard, and looking for junk in front of the net. I love the forecheck, blocked shots, and I love an appropriately shortened bench late in the game. Coach DeBoer, you are just what this franchise needed!
In the end, Vanessa and I exited the arena very satisfied with the effort and the two points (not to mention an official game puck in our pocket)! We very much look forward to next Thursday’s game against Minnesota at 7:30. We can hardly wait to see what feat David Booth is going to accomplish next, and how hard Keith Ballard will deliver another hip check!
A note or two from Friday and Saturday
The Inflatable Cow:
It is my understanding that the organization knew the Dancing Banana would be unable to return this season due to reasons beyond their control. They also knew the Peanut Butter Jelly dance was a fan favorite last season (not every fan, but you can't please all of the people all of the time).
They decided to appease the Banana-loving majority of the fans by continuing the same song with a new inflatable mascot, as opposed to just dropping something that was clearly popular. Now the question was, what type of mascot do you get? Do you go with another completely un-panther-related giant piece of fruit, or do you try to tie it in and maybe create something that could be seen as at least remotely related. They settled on the cow after the cowbell became the focus of their noise-making efforts for the 2008-2009 season. I heartily applaud their efforts to do something positive for the people in the stands. You really have to give them credit. It wasn't Mad Cow, brought to you by the Dairy Council. It was simply, Mad Cow, a non-sponsored attempt to fill a void left by the departure of one of last year's most popular pieces of entertainment.
Last night was the first time it had been displayed in public, and all things considered, I think it was fun and generally well received by those who actually stayed in their seats during the first intermission. Oh, and second only to cats, Vanessa's favorite animals are cows. When she saw Mad Cow last night, she got all giddy at how cute it was (almost the same reaction she gave to Mini-Stanley last season). Hey, anything that makes my wife smile is tops in my book!
The Watch Party at the Hard Rock:
I watched the first 2/3 of the game at the organization’s Official Watch Party inside KnightTime Billiards at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The indoor/outdoor venue was a fun place to watch the Panthers play a game, and there were probably a little over a hundred people in attendance throughout the course of the evening. Although I left during the second intermission in order to make it to another watch party at a friend’s house in Sunrise, I was there long enough to make a couple of observations:
-Bill Murphy’s band, Nobody’s Fault, is good. I mean really good. Besides being the voice of the Panthers in the Bank Atlantic Center, the guy can actually belt out a tune! They performed at the Watch Party and they were a smashing success. If you have an opportunity to watch them perform, take advantage of it.
-The Panther Patrol is comprised of some very nice young people who are wholly behind the idea of the “Our House” philosophy. I had the pleasure of meeting several of them at the Watch Party, and I was impressed with how pumped-up they are about the job they do in the arena.
The Tailgate In The Northeast Lot:
The first regular season tailgate went off without a hitch! Dozens of people showed up to meet and greet in the parking lot at 5:00. The regular corps of Cowbell Clubbers was out there, as were lots of new people. We welcome each of you to stop by on your way into the arena and introduce yourselves. If you’re rooting for the Panthers, we’d love to meet you! We’re also out there after the games saying extended goodbyes!
Post-game cheering took place outside of the southwest entrance to Pantherland after the game on Saturday. It’s nice to hear a few choruses of “Let’s Go Panthers” on the way out to your car after a victory! If the mood strikes you, mosey on over and join in. It’s exhilarating! Next week I will try to grab some video and provide a link for you to see the festivities.
Making sure that Vanessa and I knew exactly what to do and where to go on opening night was Heidi Leigh. She is the Executive Assistant to the President and COO of the organization, and she’s a terrific person. She made sure we knew exactly where to be and what we were supposed to do. Thank you very much, Heidi!
Thank you all for stopping by! I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s entry. In my next one I’m going to talk about the “Our House” philosophy, and why I feel it’s so important to the success of the team we all love!