Panthers open training camp, with Bill Torrey still in mind

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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — The first day of Florida Panthers training camp is always roughly the same: Plenty of players on the ice, plenty of hope for the new season, a bit of organized chaos.

Day 1, this year, was different.

This time, Bill Torrey wasn’t there.

The Panthers opened camp Friday, and in general manager Dale Tallon’s mind, there was a void – off the ice. Torrey, the Panthers’ president in their inaugural season 25 years ago and part of the team’s fabric ever since, died in May at the age of 83. He worked for the team up until his death and was still considered an advisor to everyone in the organization, Tallon in particular.

”He’s here every day in my mind,” Tallon said. ”I’m not getting as many butt dials on the phone, but every day, I miss him. He’s the reason I’m here, basically. He brought me here. He was like a father to me. I miss him, every day.”

Torrey was the first person that the Panthers ever honored with a retired number – 93, to commemorate 1993, the year Florida took the ice for the first time.

Torrey – or Mr. Torrey, as most Panthers employees still refer to him as – spent more than a half-century in the NHL. He was the first person hired by the New York Islanders in 1972, and wound up leading that franchise to four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 until 1983.

When the Islanders play at Florida on Nov. 10, the teams will honor Torrey’s memory.

”It really hit me when we had our first Board of Governors meeting this summer,” Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell said. ”You send in an attendance sheet and it was the first one we’ve ever done without sending in Bill Torrey’s name. He never missed one. He was such a great representative of the team.”

Teams sit in alphabetical order at the Board of Governors sessions; the Panthers are between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. Caldwell said Torrey’s absence was noted not just by the Panthers’ group this offseason, but by those representing the Oilers and Kings as well.

”All of a sudden, this icon’s not sitting there at the table,” Caldwell said. ”That was really tough, tough for the whole franchise. … It was just troubling to go through that, but doesn’t compare to what I’m sure his family is going through.”

Florida reached the Stanley Cup final in 1996 under Torrey, falling to Colorado. Earlier that season, Torrey went into the Hall of Fame as a builder who specialized in taking expansion teams and turning them into quick winners.

The Panthers never won a Cup in Torrey’s lifetime. But Tallon believes the team is on the brink of contending, and decisions Torrey helped make are part of the reason why the club believes they’re on the cusp of turning the corner.

”He’s still there. He’s always there for me,” Tallon said. ”He was the motivating factor for a lot of the stuff that we’ve done here. We can follow in his footsteps, all of us. His class, his passion, he was just a wonderful guy.”

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Blackhawks F Katchouk will be sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.