VanMurph's View: A New Season
Monday, 09.21.2009 / 11:25 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.
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Have you ever gone to bed with a terrible headache, but when you woke up in the morning, the headache was gone and you were refreshed and ready to face the day?
For me, the end of last season was analogous to that late-night headache. When the final seconds ticked away, and our playoff race was officially over, all I felt like doing was taking a couple of aspirin and lying down for a 6-month nap. But now, with our guys in camp, ice on the floor of the BankAtlantic Center, and the season opener just a couple of weeks away, I’ve put the headache behind me and I’m ready for the ’09-’10 season to get underway.
Judging from the emails I’ve received, and the chatter on the message boards and facebook, I’d say the summer hasn’t gone exactly as a lot of Panthers fans would’ve liked. The turmoil surrounding the sale of the club, and the abrupt departure of our General Manager, has made for a most uncomfortable off-season. Although Randy Sexton has done a terrific job as the “Assistant” GM, one of our most glaring deficiencies from last season (scoring) wasn’t really addressed in free agency, and that has left quite a few people with some skepticism about our chances in the upcoming season. I’ll admit that right up until training camp started, I too was hoping we’d go out and sign someone to help us put the puck in the net. With the loss of some key scorers from last season, I found myself wondering who’d step up and fill the void. But after spending a week up at incredible ICE watching our veterans practice, and our rookies going through camp, I’m not as concerned about the scoring as I was earlier in the summer. Every one of our guys looked in shape, and it was clearly evident that they are ready to do their best to help put the playoff drought behind us. There was quite a large turnout of Panthers fans on the first day of Rookie Camp. I’d estimate that there were 200+ people out there to watch the prospects skate. It was fantastic to see Coach DeBoer out there putting the rookies through the drills. A lot of the young guys came to camp ready to compete. Dmitry Kulikov, Evgeny Dadonov, Michal Repik, Shawn Matthias, Keaton Ellerby, Jason Garrison and Kenndal McArdle looked particularly impressive. It was clear to me that those kids are looking for a spot on the roster.
I had only been out to the rink a couple of times since last March, so I hadn’t seen the newly completed multi-million dollar addition since it became operational. I have to say, I am really impressed with the facility. If you’re a fan of seeing the action up-close, you should take the time to head out and watch the Panthers practice on the new sheet of ice. There is a single row of seats along the glass on one half of the rink, and there is a “warm room” behind the west-side goal zone to escape from the frigid temperatures inside the building. The Vice President/General Manager of incredible ICE, Jeff Campol, did a terrific job of designing and overseeing the entire project after having visited several other NHL teams’ facilities. The Panthers will now be practicing and training in a state-of-the-art establishment, including hot and cold therapy pools, a cutting-edge gym, and a media room/players lounge that would make most grown men envious.
This is the time of year that is really exciting around our house. The Marlins are in the wildcard race, the Dolphins’ season is underway, and the Panthers are in camp and only days away from starting the regular season. For Vanessa and me, after a long hockeyless summer, September brings with it the excitement and hope of a new Panthers season. This year, more so than in seasons past, we’re particularly eager for the games to get started. We’re really looking forward to seeing how several things play out. We want to see, among other things: how Coach DeBoer and Michael Frolik perform in their sophomore seasons; whether or not the Sunrise Express line’s reuniting will pay dividends on the score sheet; how our defense will fare without Bouwmeester’s 20+ minutes per night; if Scott Clemmensen’s remarkable performance in New Jersey last season wasn't a fluke; whether any of our prospects will make the leap from the minors or juniors; if Tomas Vokoun be able to shake off the slow starts of the past two seasons; if David Booth will score, 40, 50, or more; if Bryan Allen will be back to 100% of what he was before the knee surgery; and of course, whether or not we will be watching playoff hockey in Sunrise…
Being hockey-starved, it’s hard to believe we are just a little less than three weeks away from the home opener. The fact that the season is merely a stone’s throw away was really driven home when I landed in Las Vegas Friday night and the first message on my voicemail was from my wife telling me that our season ticket packages had arrived via UPS. She was excited about it, and she knew I would be too. It’s something we’ve come to eagerly anticipate. Having our tickets for the entire season in hand means that it is only a matter of time before we’re walking into the BankAtlantic Center for hockey nights (and, of course, all of the pre and post-game rituals we’ve come to enjoy; such as tailgating, cheering in front of PantherLand after games, dinners in the AvMed or ADT clubs, and spending time discussing the games with friends in the parking lot at the end of the evening). We are counting the days, and keeping an eye on our guys as they spend the next couple of weeks getting tuned up for the long campaign ahead.
A few notes:
- Friday, October 2nd is opening day in Helsinki, and the game will be televised on Versus (VS). The Panthers organization and the Booster Club are hosting a watch party for the opener at Breakaway Bar & Grill inside IncredibleICE. For those of you who’ve not been to the facility, now would be a great time to visit. It’s on Sample Road just off the Sawgrass Expressway. The game starts at 12:00pm.
- Saturday, October 3rd, the second game of the season will be televised on the NHL Network. The Panthers organization has scheduled a pair of watch parties for that game; one is being held at the Carolina Ale House in Weston, and the other one is at Giovanni’s Coal Fire Pizza on 136th street next to IKEA in Sunrise. If you’re not busy, come on out and join fellow fans as we watch our guys take on the Blackhawks. The game starts at noon.
- Earlier I mentioned Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton. It’s time to remove the word “Assistant” from his title. He’s stepped up to the plate and done an admirable job of guiding this team through the off-season, and it’s my opinion that he deserves the title of General Manager (and the pay increase it entails), even if it’s only on an interim basis. Let’s face it, he’s not “assisting” anyone anymore, he’s running the show. Give him the respect he’s earned.
- Cats Rewind was a show on FSN during the recent summers. During the sic months we were all without hockey, they would replay Panthers games from the preceding season. This summer, however, Cats Rewind wasn’t shown. Although the NHL Network replayed the 2009 playoffs (thus satisfying the hockey needs of many), FSN left Panthers fans hanging this year. I really hope Cats Rewind returns next summer. Coming in from the hot south Florida weather to watch a two-hour hockey game in the air-conditioned comfort of my living room was a nice way to spend part of an afternoon.
- This is the most opportune time of the year to go out and buy yourself a load of plastic or rubber rats! There are several Halloween stores located throughout Broward County, and I’ve already begun to build a stockpile for the upcoming season. I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of home victories after which to litter the ice with rats!
- I’ve gotten quite a few emails from folks wanting to know if I know anything about the Panthers’ 3rd jersey. I don’t have any of the details about it, and I don’t know when it’s proposed to be unveiled. All I know is that I’m eagerly anticipating the opportunity to fork over some of my hard-earned cash to buy a couple of them! Hopefully it’ll be soon. The rumor I heard was that it was supposed to be out sometime in September, but as the month draws to a close, I’m beginning to think the rumor may have been false.
- And finally, from the Panthers website: “As a valued season seat owner of the Florida Panthers we are extending to you FOUR complimentary tickets to the preseason game on Wednesday, September 23rd against the Dallas Stars at the Bank Atlantic Center! Please call your representative for tickets. This season figures to be packed with exciting goals and monstrous hits! Let's root our guys on from the very start and pack the building for next week's game!”
Thank you to all of you who emailed me and sent me messages on facebook after the last blog entry. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thanks for stopping by the blog.