Panthers pay homage to Parkland school shooting victims in Florida's emotional comeback | NHL



SUNRISE, Fla. – The sport of hockey was originally created as a fun for the winter months, but in recent years, the game and current events have sometimes been intertwined irrevocably, with the game just trying to play A small role to help people forget for a while about some of the tragedies that surround them.

From Colorado Avalanche with "CHS" patches and playoff rescheduling after the Columbine shooting in 1999, to Mark Messier wearing one of the 9/11 victims' helmets at Madison Square Garden at the first sports event in Manhattan the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001, until last October with the exciting debut of the regular season of the Vegas Golden Knights after another massive shooting in that city, hockey has tried to help heal what he could during his season.

The No. 936 game between Florida and Washington in this year's NHL schedule broke the normal course of a season and took its place with those other sad but memorable events with the Panthers returning home after a long trip by Western Highway during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Parkland, Fla., located just 15 minutes from the BB & T Center and a few minutes from the Panthers practice facility.

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Parkland is home to several team players and sends their children to school.

The Panthers were on the mainland in Vancouver when the shooting that killed 17 took place on February 14, and they slowly made their way eastward, arriving in South Florida after Tuesday's game in Toronto.

Players wore black Stoneman Douglas hats while interviewing the media in the morning skate, and both Panthers and Capitals used them during pregame warm-ups. Notices at the BB & T Center used to sell insurance, concerts and cars were removed from the dasher boards during the afternoon, replaced by red and gray "MSDSTRONG" logos, and the NHL logo on the corner replaced by the keyword from school.

Panthers sleeves were buckled with a freshly sewn "MSD" patch, while their helmets also They had the logo of the school on a sticker stuck on the back. Both will remain there for the rest of the season.

When the teams returned to the bank for the scheduled start of the game, the lights of the arena went out and there was a montage of residents in mourning and the 17 victims of the Valentine's Day shooting. is displayed on the BB & T Center scoreboard.

MORE: Blake Wheeler of the Jets scared of putting children in American schools [19659002] The voice of the Panthers radio Randy Moeller then headed to a podium placed in the center of ice to address the crowd, asking for a change, surrounded by 17 white projectors projected onto the ice, each with the name of a victim of the shooting.

The crowd fell silent as "God Bless America" ​​was sung, and then Parkland resident and Panthers goalkeeper Roberto Luongo skated on the bench, grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd at the BB & T Center, his voice trembled with emotion and pain a speech that lasted just under three minutes.

"Obviously, we knew it was going to be an emotional night for us and all the city, so we did a good job with the service, and obviously it's a very difficult situation, "Nick Bjugstad said later. "For us to go out and win, it's fun, but it's just a game and what happened last week was really hard for us, and I can not imagine how hard it is for the families and the people who attend that school." 19659002] Luongo said the speech was one of the most difficult things he had to do in his career in the NHL.

"I've been thinking about the last two days," he said. "It's mostly in my mind, and it's hard to focus on the game, because I wanted to make sure I got my message across, and I'm glad it worked well.

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"The first few minutes of the game were very difficult to be honest with you … I was not in the area is a good way to say it, the emotion was running high from the ceremony . … I was able to calm down and play my game. We had some help from above … We had little angels who helped us tonight, I think, to get a big win. "

With the Panthers on the cusp of the East Conference wild card race, Coach Bob Boughner recognized a staggered Stanley Cup tie-break compared to local events.

"I know that at the end of the day, they are professionals, and they have a job to do, and how important this stretch of home is important to us, "Boughner told the media in the morning." When you look at the other side of things, it does not seem very important when you're dealing with something like this. It is not easy to separate the two, but our boys know how important this situation is for the community, and how important it is to go through this situation as a team, and we will do everything possible with that. "

The minds of the Panthers have been in his adopted home since the shooting occurred as the team prepared to play the Canucks, more than 2,800 miles from what was happening a short distance from the Florida practice track in Coral Springs.

"It was difficult" Captain Derek MacKenzie said of the trip. "It was really difficult. I live in Parkland, the children go to school on the street. I think things have changed when I received the news that the children were safe, changed gear and hoped for the best for the rest of the community … I said earlier that it was harder for wives and families who had children locked up . [19659002] "It was 10, 11 long days for us, I would have loved to go back and have hugged some people before us, but we have returned today".

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Even visiting the coach of Capitals, Barry Trotz, knew that the game had a greater meaning.

"Obviously, with the tragedy here, we have to stop that," he said. "And obviously this affects this area because it's my base of operations, I think there's going to be solidarity and everyone thinks what should happen in the future."

MacKenzie also hoped that his club could be inspired by the community it represents, since they settled down at home after their road trip.

"I think you look back on the Vancouver game, we went a lot with the excitement and I think you find ways to control it and use it," he said, "and certainly as a member of the Parkland community, and very proud of how they all came together, they got up and tried to change things, but in any case, they have been inspiring for me and the rest of the team and I hope we can use it tonight. "

Boughner knew that the team's perspective changed once they landed at home in the early hours of Wednesday and would do the best they can to honor their community.

"It's our first chance to see the reality of everything," he said. "Obviously, you hear that kind of news from the road, you see from the distance what everyone is fighting in the community, and you follow it as best as you can, but until you get home and see it up close obviously, it's going to be a emotional night.

"Many of our boys seem to know someone who was affected by the tragedy and just being there … We have a role to play in this for the community. We will come out of this and honor it properly and never forget what happened. "


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