The Florida Panthers and their management took full advantage of a free day in the Big Apple as they took to the great outdoors for a 90-minute practice. It might be a man-made outdoor rink, but Saturday afternoon’s practice in Central Park brought back plenty of childhood memories for the Florida Panthers.
Panthers’ head coach Kevin Dineen explained that days like this are a good opportunity for a team to share some special experiences together. “It’s a hard schedule and at the end of the year a day like this will stick out as special,” Dineen told the Sun Sentinal. “There are a lot of smiles out there, you get back to your youth and get to enjoy.”
It wasn’t just the coach that enjoyed the chance to shake things up. Stephen Weiss admitted that the six-month season can wear on players and things like Saturday’s practice help break up the grind. “An 82-game schedule can become monotonous at times doing the same things over and over again,” Weiss said. “This is nice to refocus and certainly breaks it up and brings you back to your roots when you were a kid, and puts a smile on your face.”
If there’s any team that deserves a fun practice these days, it’s the Panthers. The Panthers are tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference going into Saturday evening and have to be considered one of the most surprising stories of the year. Dineen said that this is one of those things that will stick out as something special when the season’s over; if they keep this up, they’re going to have plenty of things to remember from this extraordinary season.
It didn’t have the world record breaking attendance of “The Big Chill” between Michigan and Michigan State nor did it feature a contest between hockey’s two biggest stars like the 2011 Winter Classic, but the WHL put on an outdoor game of its own tonight. They even attracted an energy drink sponsor, as the event was titled the Rockstar Oudoor Hockey Classic.
Sure, the sold out crowd of 7,075 fans who watched the Spokane Chiefs dominate the Kootenay Ice 11-2 would be a mere drop in the bucket for those aforementioned outdoor games, but if everyone enjoyed it* then why not?
* – People associated with the Kootenay Ice might be the exception judging from the score of that game, though.
The event took place at Spokane’s Avista Stadium, included appearances from former minor league hockey players and featured typical attractions for big events including a fireworks display. Here are some more details.
Former Allan Cup Champions Don Schereza and Dwight Carruthers, who played for the Spokane Jets and Flyers respectivley in the 1970’s, were joined by former Chief Joe Cardarelli at center ice. The pre-game was atmosphere was puncuated by a flyover from the 92 Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base.
Near perfect weather and the scoring output by the home club kept the capacity crowd involved through all 60 minutes. A fireworks spectacular presented by TicketsWest highlighted the post game ceremonies.
Following the game, fans were treated to three different giveaways, a commerative ticket, a poster of the opening ceremonies presented by Washington Trust Bank and The Rypien Foundation, and a coupon for a Chalupa at Taco Bell thanks to Spokane scoring more than five goals.
Nothing says “crowd pleaser” quite like a nine-goal win and some free artery-clogging fast food, right?