Wide-eyed and bundled up, a group of Miami teenagers watched the Florida Panthers take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Thursday night’s home-opener.
For most, it was their first hockey game.
Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services Inc. serves at-risk youth, offering shelter and counseling.
Before the teams took the ice, the group heard from retired NHL player Bill Lindsay, an original Panther who played in the 1993-1994 inaugural season. Best known for scoring the winning goal to give the Panthers their first-ever playoff series victory in 1996, the Year of the Rat, Lindsay belonged to the Eastern Conference Championship Team and played in the Stanley Cup Finals. He appeared in 506 games with the Panthers (1993-1999, 2001-2002).
The franchise is celebrating year 25. “This might be the best hockey team we’ve had,” Lindsay said.
In honor of the team’s 25th anniversary, the inaugural players walked a red carpet to center ice and stood in a circle alongside the current team members.
Lindsay gave the group from Miami Bridge an overview of the game and what to expect. “You’re going to see a ton of action, back and forth,” he said. “It’s quick.”
One teen asked Lindsay about injuries he’s had. He said during a hockey fight, he had his gloves off and got skated on, needing 90 stitches in his hand: “I still don’t have feeling in my hand.”
Despite the 5-4 loss, the experience was a rewarding one the 18 youths and four staff members from Miami Bridge won’t soon forget.
They joined thousands of fans at BB&T Center in Sunrise in the lower bowl.
OneWorld Properties President and CEO Peggy Olin Fucci, who serves on the board of Miami Bridge, holds a special place in her heart for the kids.
Thank you to the Panthers organization for a fantastic night!
Lindsay, now radio color commentator for Florida Panthers home games, shared the secret to success of his 14-year professional hockey career.
“I always worked extremely hard at it. I enjoyed it,” said Lindsay, who grew up playing hockey in Canada. The sport gave him discipline and bonding with his teammates, he added.
“If you have that inner drive, you never know where it’s going to take you.”