Thanks for the memories: Saying goodbye to Panther Parkway

After 5 seasons as a blogger, I am calling it quits.

I made this decision about 2 weeks or so ago, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would approach it, so I stared at a blank document for a few days. Well, I finally put my emotions in my back pocket, and mustered up a few words. So, here is goes:

It’s no secret that hockey is my life. I know that sounds cliché’, but this sport literally consumes my entire family. With that being said, I think it’s in the best interest of my family that I stopped writing about the Florida Panthers for Panther Parkway. Even though this decision was quite difficult to make, a good friend once told me “No matter what you choose to do with your career, the sport of hockey isn’t going anywhere”. As simple as that may sound, he’s right, which made my decision to leave Panther Parkway a little easier.

If I’m being honest, I’ve had, on a few occasions, times when I thought about stepping away from this site to spend more time with my son, school work, or to focus on my day job. But every time, something pulled me back in. Well, not this time.

For the past 5 years, I have invested a great deal of my time into various blog sites. I was originally affiliated with The Rat Trick of Fansided.com, and after 2 seasons we decided to move into a different direction (enter Panther Parkway).

Frank Rekas and I began Panther Parkway 3 seasons ago, and it has been everything to me. Although Mr. Rekas called it quits a few weeks ago, this was still very much mine and his baby from the start. Because we were not affiliated with any affiliation site, we spent countless hours trying to build this site from the ground up, with very limited help promoting our independent blog. Well, I’m proud to say that our site has produced over 50 podcast episodes with some of the best guests in the business, along with 1,500 articles since the sites launch 3 seasons ago. We’ve had incredible support over the years from our readers, and we are all so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you. Trust me when I tell you, your support and passion means the world to us.

During my time as a blogger, I’ve seen some amazing writers come in and out – writers who have helped this site grow tremendously, and I’d like to thank them all for it. To Frank, Jameson Cooper, Mike Lewis, Mike Obrand, Dave Lasseter, Chrissy Parente, Josh Luecht and JV Siegal, I can’t thank you all enough for, not only your expertise blogging skills, but being my best friends. You all mean the world to me. I really do mean that.

Along with our staff writers, I can’t tell you how many friendships I have built over the years, and how many amazing people I have met because of this website. As a female trying to pave her way into the hockey world, putting your voice out there was something I was always afraid to do, but many of you welcomed me into the unknown with open arms. I want to thank you all for being my friends, and accepting a female hockey blogger from Florida into your blogosphere. This site, and you people, have been my home away from home for so many years. On my darkest days, I could always count on the hockey community to give me a good laugh, whether it was through a silly little tweet, or a snarky article about Tyler Bozak. I’ve had a blast getting to virtually know all of you.

I want to specifically thank the Florida Panthers and PR Director Justin Copertino for taking a chance on me as an 18-year-old intern, and then again as a full-time credentialed media member. I want to thank you for giving me such a great deal of experience, as well as supplying me with a lifetime of great memories. I hope this website has supplied the team with adequate coverage over the years, and helped do its part in growing the sport of hockey in South Florida.

With both co-founders of Panther Parkway stepping back, I’m not sure what the future has in store for this site yet, nor am I sure if this site even has a future at all. All I know is I am walking away from the site I helped create, and that’s OK. Like I said earlier, I’ve met some amazing people, gained so much experience, and have made some incredible memories to last me a lifetime. But for now, it’s time to stand beside my family, and cheer on the Panthers, the team I love so much, from afar.

Cheers, everyone.

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Sometimes You Just Gotta Walk On.

Josh, Dave, Frank & Paige

Josh, Dave, Frank & Paige

As Panther Parkway begins its third year of existence, this new season of hockey will come with great anticipation.  The Florida Panthers have revamped their roster with veteran players via free agency in hopes to begin a path towards becoming a more competitive team.  Additionally the youngsters that are going through their maturation process will be looked at to take the next step in their development, and be counted on to make more significant contributions. I’m sure we’re all excited to see how the new roster gels, and to see how head coach Gerard Gallant puts all the pieces together in his first year behind the Panther bench.

However this article isn’t about the Panthers.  It’s actually about our site, and the future of it.  Don’t worry, we’re still here.  But we too are going through some “personnel” changes.

Due to the fact that I care so much about Panther Parkway and the readers of it, I felt that I owed you an explanation of what my plans are.  I have been in hibernation for most of the summer and haven’t written much of anything for quite some time now.  I’ve been extremely quiet on Twitter as well.  Unfortunately that’s not going to change anytime soon.  I’ve been working towards making some changes in my career (re:day job) that won’t allow me to spend the time necessary to give you the quality writing that’s deserved.  That being said, I have decided that I need to do what’s best for me not only professionally, but personally.  That decision is to take a step back.  Very far back.  For how long I can’t say.  Today, I start a new challenge in my life that I am so looking forward to.  If you’re a client, no need to worry.  Nothing changes for you, although certain things may have a chance to get better.  I’ll be in touch with you soon enough.

The site will be in good hands so no need to be concerned.

As I take this sabbatical, I need to thank some people who’ve helped me in this journey that we’ve been on.  I have to start first with David Lasseter.  Dave was the first writer who joined me over at our other home.  You know, that site with the “catchy name”.  Dave added his quick wit, his wry sense of humor, and his expert analysis to the site.  But Dave did it in a way that was always fun to read.  Except of course when he just posted video’s of things blowing up after an embarrassing loss.  He knew how to display the anger for all of us. Dave has become a good friend as well, and I will always be thankful for him taking the leap into this with me.  And for some help with a couple minor traffic violations. 🙂

Josh Luecht who joined shortly after Dave and gave me the “push” to seek credentials for the site.  Josh also is to be thanked for getting us to start a podcast.  Who ever thought that three guys like us would ever get anyone to listen to three people talk about the Florida Panthers?  But you did listen.  At one point we were like the three amigos.  Or maybe it was the three stooges depending on who you talked to.

And of course, Paige Lewis.  I guess you could say we were the fab four. More about her later .

Gaby Kiger who now has a sweet gig with Fox Sports, and Chrissy Parente who moved on from here to do some internship work with the Florida Panthers as she works towards her degree.  While I don’t know if we actually helped, at least I can say I knew them before they were famous!  Good luck ladies!  Oh and congrats Gaby on your recent engagement.

Mike Lewis who was with us briefly has also moved on to a full time position with the Panthers.  It was great having you here, and I always like it when someone gets a chance to chase their dream.  Good luck Mike.

Jameson Cooper. I’m not sure what to say about Coop.  Between his diligent work, his excellent interviewing skills, and his sometimes silly and off the wall tweets, he has become not only one of our better writers, but has also served double duty for me as a marketing assistant for my business.  He picked up the slack for me so many times on the site, and has done an outstanding job for us from day one.  He too has become a very good friend, and I know he’ll do great things wherever he goes.

Mike Obrand who is currently on honeymoon with his lovely bride Carly in Greece (writing for us apparently gives people the love bug).  Mike is going to add his “Canadian” flair to this site and I promise you he’ll be a great read each and every time he posts something.  I still owe him a drink or two, and I promise that sometime after he returns and things settle down a bit, we’ll get together and toss a few back.  Or I’ll at least try to convince him to buy insurance from me.

Finally, I have to thank Paige Lewis. I often refer to Paige on twitter as my hockey wife, I cannot thank her enough for what she’s done for me and the site.  One of the main reasons for the success of Panther Parkway is due to Paige, and people need to know just how hard she works at it.  And how dedicated she is to it.  Proof of that are the accolades our podcast “Panther Parkway Radio” gets, which she has taken to new heights.  Except on those nights where the silliness just takes over, but hey, we have fun.  Smarter than most people give her credit for, she has more hockey knowledge in her little fingernail than many people have in their entire brain.  While she’s technically young enough to be my daughter, she’s mature way beyond her years.   I honestly love her more than I can say here.  She has become a special person in my life, and I will forever be grateful for the friendship we have.  Mike Dixon, you’re a lucky man.

I would also like to thank the Florida Panthers organization for their trust and confidence in giving us the access to the players and coaches of the team.  You did this when we were just three guys thinking we knew what we were talking about.  In our own minds we did, but our message had to be tamed, and it ultimately was.  While we don’t get paid for this, we all respect the credentials that were given to us, and by doing so I think everyone would agree that our writing improved dramatically because of it.  My stepping back doesn’t change that, as Paige has the same philosophy about things as I do.  There will be some new writers added, and some exciting things will be happening as things move forward.

In closing, I would like to thank all the readers of the site, the followers on Twitter and our Facebook Fan page.  I would like to thank the many people who have had me as a guest on their podcast or radio shows, and if you’re reading I’m still available to do that when my schedule permits. I also need to thank all the other media members that I’ve met, and everyone associated with writing and hockey fandom.  I have a great deal of respect for people like George Richards and Harvey Fialkov who are the Panther beat reporters.  You guys have a tough job.

I have made many friends because of this, and while I haven’t met all of you in person, the one’s that I have met have been absolutely some of the nicest people around.  This decision was a difficult one to make, but I know that it’s the right choice not only for Panther Parkway, but for me as well.  I’ll still have a hand in what goes with the site, but my real life career has to take priority.  I’m sure that you can appreciate that, and I hope you understand.

A trademark of my articles always includes a music video of Bruce Springsteen.  Here he is from his performance this past April at the BB & T Center in Sunrise, Florida.  He talks at the beginning about why he wrote this particular song that he’s performing, and references people coming together for one idea.  Kind of like how Panther Parkway came to be.

 

Thanks everyone for your support and your friendship.

 

Which NHL Playoff Team Should You Root For?

Panther Parkway Playoff Preview

We’re hours away from puck drop for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it donned on me (and on all around good guy Jameson Cooper) that there may be thousands and possibly millions of you readers out there who don’t have a vetted interest in a team this year. Your team may have not made it to the post-season, you could be a new fan or you could have amnesia…if that’s the case, thanks for reading and consult a physician immediately after reading this post. Whatever the reason may be, if you need to latch on to a team for the post-season then do I have a piece for you! There are 16 teams in this year’s post season, some are good, some are really good, some are really really really good and some are just OK. Let’s take a look at which team may be a good fit for you.

Anaheim Ducks

Do you like Disney movies about a scrappy gang of youths melded together by the bonds of teamwork, being poor, and national pride? If so then the Ducks could be the team you’re looking for. Don’t be confused by their captain’s lack of hair – he’s amazing at hockey and will not let you down if you’re looking for a deep playoff run. The kicker is 92 year Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of these playoffs, so if you’re into nostalgia and crying then you’re on the right path.

Boston Bruins

Nobody in their right mind should cheer for the Bruins so if you’re not in your right mind you can cheer for them I guess. Also I hate you.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been the toast of the NHL for a while now. If you’re that person who wants instant gratification then hitch your horse to the wagon and hang on for dear life. If you’re the person who has never seen a Rocky movie, watches Rocky 4 ,and then tells everyone that you love every Rocky movie then cheer for the Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is made up from a group of young players with an excessive amount of high-end dynamic talent. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene (injured, but still), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, will surely make your eyes pop out of your head. They’re also coached by a crazy person. Their playoff hashtag is #whynotus so if you’re into innovative playoff hashtags you might want to look elsewhere for a team to support.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for the 2nd time in their history. Good for them right? If you like an underdog and or jokes about fellatio then you should fit right in with this fanbase. The Blue Jackets are this year’s working class blue-collar team so if you get a kick out of those Ford F-150 commercials where the announcer is pretty much reading everything on the screen, then go ahead and cheer for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn, best player by far, has led his Stars to the last playoff spot in the West. I’m sure all of Texas is behind them but if you feel like hootin’ and hollerin’ and ho-downin’ and other Texas slangs then hop right on this chuck wagon!

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. They have won only 4 Stanley Cups in that span, so if you like high winning percentages, then don’t root for the Red Wings. If you like Sweden, rookies, cool breakaway moves and great coaching then they may be right up your alley.

Los Angeles Kings

All of LA’s top C list celebrities are totally into the Kings so if you want to head to Staples Center and snap a selfie with Matthew Perry then you’re in the right ballpark. The Kings are a team that Wayne Gretzky used to play for so if you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia when explaining your fandom then wear that silver and black.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” which would be accurate if Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania all didn’t have hockey teams too. Liars.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups out of any NHL franchise with 24. They haven’t won one since 1993 so if you’re looking to get on board with a group of self-entitled history-clutching crazies, who are desperately waiting to see a cup win in their lifetime then mon ami/e you are knocking at the right door. Poutine is fantastic too, that should be good enough.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are one of three teams in New York (keep thinking of that third one). They’re like the Yankees if the Yankees have only won 4 World Series ever and haven’t won one since 1994 and the one before that was in 1940. If you like not having lofty expectations met then go put on a blue shirt.

Philadelphia Flyers

They sing America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner so if you like alternate forms of patriotism then cheer for the Flyers. They’re also historically violent, made the Red Army team refuse to play against them because of it and their fans have the reputation of being a-holes. If this made you mad then you’re probably a Flyers fan already.

Pittsburgh Penguins

If you like cheering for the best at anything then step right up and feast your eyes on Sidney Crosby. Supporting the best hockey player in the world is reason enough to cheer for the Penguins and fans have been doing just that since 2005. I’d like to point out that former arguably best player in the world Mario Lemieux partly owns the team and will be shown frequently on TV throughout these playoffs so if you like passing torches from generation to generation then grab a Pens jersey and get ready to be disappointed by Marc Andre Fleury.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup and have the unfortunate reputation of being “playoff chokers.” If you like great teams with great players then cheer for the Sharks. If you like teal then cheer for the Sharks. If you like the Jaws theme song then cheer for the Sharks. If you want to get offended every time someone mentions the word “choke” then sheer for the Sharks. If you want to be part of their first cup win then don’t cheer for the Sharks because they’re kind of chokers.

St. Louis Blues

Another team without a Cup win ever. A lot of people don’t like the Blues so if you’re a fan of being the outcast who sticks up for their team no matter what horrible thing they do that makes everyone else angry then cheer for the Blues. American almost hero Ryan Miller is their starting goalie. You probably heard of him a few years ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Led by elite sniper Steven Stamkos for now, the Lightning are one of those cool teams that doesn’t end in an S. If you like the Oklahoma City Thunder then DEFINITELY cheer for the Lightning because then you can make your twitter handle @ThunderandLightning and you’ll be really cool.

By now you should have a team that suits you perfectly. If you’re still undecided, then refresh this page and read the post again. Go Hockey Go, enjoy the playoffs folks.

Barkov Leaves Game Against Norway With Injury

With injuries coming to Valterri Filppula and Mikko Koivu before the Winter Olympic games, Aleksander Barkov, the rookie phenom, was given the honor of taking the top line centering spot between Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund.

After playing a solid game Thursday morning against Austria, recording 1 assist, a +2 rating, and going 11/13 in the face-off circle, Barkov earned himself a permanent spot on Finland’s top line for Friday’s game against Norway.

Team Finland pulled off yet another win, beating Norway 6-1, but the big win came with consequence. Nearly half-way through the 3rd period, Barkov was crushed into the boards by Per-Age Skroder of Norway, where he limped slowly to his teams bench, and eventually made his way to the locker room.

It appeared that Barkov tweaked his right knee as he went down awkwardly to the ice. He did not return to the game, and teammate Jussi Jokinen played in his spot.

There are no updates regarding the severity of his knee injury, but we will be sure to keep you updated as the day goes on.

 

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

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Panther Parkway: Happy Thanksgiving Edition

I promise to keep this brief, as most of you are preparing to be together with family and friends, and enjoy each others’ company, along with good food, and maybe a moment of reflection on things that bring you happiness.  A list of things that I am thankful for as they relate to this great sport that we write about here at Panther Parkway.

* First of all I’m thankful for the fantastic staff that we have here on this site.  Without everyone’s contribution, there’s no way we can be who we are.  And no way we could have grown this fast.

* I want to thank all our loyal and passionate followers on Twitter, and those of you who come here to read this site on a daily basis.  You people are one of the main reasons that we do this, and we appreciate all our support.

* I want to thank the NHL for having the Florida Panthers in South Florida.  Regardless of the wins and losses, I know I speak for much of the fan base when I say, we are glad that we can watch live hockey in the sunshine state.

* Aleksander Barkov.  It’s a great feeling to have such a young and promising player step right in at such a young age and play like he’s been here before.  Despite his accent, listening to him talk makes him that more loveable. (Right Paige?)

* Erik Gudbranson.  With a recent coaching change, it appears that you are now becoming the player the Panthers thought they were getting when they selected you in 2010.  I knew the talent was there all along. Hopefully you’ll be here for many, many years.

* That moment when a player skates down the wing, takes a blistering slap shot that whistles past a goaltenders glove.

* The national anthems.  When both of them are sung at a game, with the right atmosphere…… I get goosebumps.

* No lockout.  It’s a relief to know that we’ll have uninterrupted hockey for the balance of this decade.

* Jonathan Toews.  My favourite player.  The epitome of professionalism, leadership, and skill all rolled into one.  I love watching him play.

* 17 Seconds in June of 2013.  A night of euphoria, validating a teams’ existence as a true champion. Lets Go Hawks!

* People.  Everyone that I’ve met either in person, or via social media that loves the game of hockey as much as I do.  The conversations that we’ve shared make the days go by. 

* Media.  To the professionals not only locally, but league wide who cover the teams, and the sport itself, thank you all for your insight and words of wisdom.

* Finally, I would like to thank the Florida Panthers organization for giving me and my staff here the opportunity to have the access that we do.  There is no way for me to show the gratitude and the appreciation other than by saying thank you.  I know that sometimes we are a bit on the edge, but it’s only because we are a passionate group, and it’s our love of the game that gives us that energy to allow us to verbally describe our feelings.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. 

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Huberdeau’s Need For Speed at Miami Speedway (Video)

Back in October, reigning Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau took a trip to the Homestead-Miami Speedway track to have a little fun in a Shelby Cobra Mustang. And to our delight, the folks over at South Florida Ford recorded the Quebec native on his speedway adventures.

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Florida Panthers Announced Their First Player Cuts

Last week, the Florida Panthers began their training camp with a double header against the Nashville Predators in which they won both games, respectively. After heading to the Lone Star state earlier this week, the Panthers were held to just 3 goals in two games as they battled the Dallas Stars. With four pre-season games already in the books (2-1-1), and three games left to go, the Florida Panthers line-up is looking closer and closer to what we’ll see when the puck drops on Oct 3rd, in Dallas. The Florida Panthers announced this morning that they have made their first batch of cuts:

The following players have been loaned to their Minor League Affiliates, the San Antonio Rampage:

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Panther Parkway Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago Panther Parkway was born.  I’ve made many decisions in my lifetime, some good, and some….. well…..not so good.  However the decision to leave the network that we were affiliated with for three years and start our own website, has turned out to be one of the best decisions that I could have made.  On September 7th of 2012, this story was published telling our loyal readers of the good news.  While The Rat Trick was where we started, leaving that site and starting Panther Parkway has turned out to be a bigger success than we originally thought.

We still have some work to do on the site itself, however I truly believe that we have established ourselves in the blogosphere as a premiere site for all your Florida Panthers information, as well as other stories of interest in and around the NHL.  As we approach the start of the regular season, we’re looking to make some cosmetic changes to the site which will include a new format, a new design, and some additional surprises along the way.  Our podcast, Panther Parkway Radio, hosted by Paige Lewis has received rave reviews, and we’ll continue to do those on a regular basis.  We also have plans to do some very unique “in game” and “post game” work for our home games this season.  We invite you to continue coming to our site on a daily basis.   In addition, please make sure that you continue following all of us on Twitter, and if you haven’t already, go and “like” our Facebook Fan Page!

Life has been significantly better for me at least since the move was made, and I want to personally thank all of our loyal fans that read and interact with us on a daily basis.  We appreciate your feedback, and really enjoy the conversations that we have.  I’ve made a number of friends the along the way, and while I also seem to have lost a few as well, I would like everyone to know that my passion for this sport runs very deep.  Don’t take anything that I say to heart.  It’s that passion that all of us here at Panther Parkway share, and is also what motivates us to do the work we do.

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NHL Announces Outdoor Game in Miami (Humor)

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)

(Editors Note: This piece is meant to be taken as satire. All facts, quotes, and reports are fabricated. Enjoy!)

Earlier this year, the NHL announced that it would be adding five more outdoor games next season to accompany the already immensely popular Winter Classic. While games in New York and Chicago were welcome with open arms, the announcement that a game would be held in the warm climate of Los Angeles was met with some skepticism. Well, the skeptics are going to need to get their sunscreen ready as the NHL announced today that the league will also be adding one more outdoor game in the tropical hockey capital of the world – Miami, Florida.

But, before I discuss the details behind this exciting announcement, let me first take you back to where this all began.

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Panther Parkway Chosen to Represent the Florida Panthers in Puck Daddy’s “National Hockey League of Nations” Project

Yahoo's Puck Daddy Logo

Yahoo’s Puck Daddy Logo

A couple of weeks ago, Greg Wyshynski announced that he and the boys over at Yahoo’s very controversial and hilarious “Puck Daddy” would be creating an interactive summer project which would include the help of 30 chosen team writers/blogs from around the league. The project titled “National Hockey League of Nations”, which began on August 1st, was created in honor of the NHL and the IIHF finally deciding upon the inevitable, which would see the players of the NHL in attendance at the 2014 Winter Olympics games in Sochi, Russia.

Here is how the project works: Already starting with the Anaheim Ducks and continuing on in alphabetical order, Puck Daddy has chosen a blog from each NHL team, who were instructed to make a list of their teams best “all-time” players from around the world. For instance: If you are the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, or New York Rangers, it’s obvious that Wayne Gretzky is the greatest Canadian to ever be apart of your franchises, EVEN if he only played for the Blues for a short stint. Or if you’re the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, or New Jersey Devils, it’s a no brainer that Jaromir Jagr is the greatest Czech born player to ever don these colors, (even if he was useless for the Stars, and hasn’t technically played a game for the Devils, yet).

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