No Cat Fights Here

You would think that hockey players feel shafted. After all, the NBA players get all of the media hype. Major League Baseball gets all the television coverage. NFL teams get whole squads of cheerleaders – but the Florida Panthers only have six.

“Is that all?” said Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who was watching a recent game from the press box. He could have counted the cheerleaders on his fingers, except that one hand was in a cast, due to a torn ligament in his wrist. “We could use more, I guess.”

Really, he has no complaints about being hockey player, even in sunny Florida. “I think it’s one of the best places to play,” he said. “The last couple of months, we’ve had unbelievable crowds. The fans have been awesome.” It may be true that the Panthers have struggled near the bottom of their division this season, but Weiss seems to look at the upside. “We need to start winning games at home. If we do our part to win hockey games, that will bring people in the building.”

Weiss says he doesn’t really get recognized in public, so there are no problems with the paparazzi. When pressed for the juicy details on the secret lives of hockey players, he says there’s nothing much to them – “nothing that I can tell you about!” In reality, he says, “We have so many games that I don’t have time to do much. Mostly we hang out at Jamie McLennan’s house.” Although Weiss is “not a beach person,” he digs hanging out by the pool and enjoying the weather. Being from Canada, “it was a bit of an adjustment when I came to the rink in the middle of [Florida] winter. When I first came here, people made fun of me for wearing socks. That was a big deal.” And he wasn’t even wearing them with sandals – it’s just that “if you wear shoes, you gotta wear socks.”

Defenseman (and Canadian Olympic team player) Jay Bouwmeester, cornered while cooling down on a Stairmaster in the locker room after the game, wouldn’t complain, either. He says he likes playing in Florida, too. Although he’s from Edmonton, he doesn’t get hassled even though Canadians have bad reputations for talking funny, clogging up the roads during season, voting for conservative prime ministers, and wearing man-bikinis. His secret to avoiding the stereotype? When he goes to the beach, he says, “I wear shorts.”

The lovely Florida Panthers play the Ottawa Senators at the BankAtlantic Center (One Panthers Pkwy., Sunrise) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets cost $20 to $250. Call 954-523-3309, or visit
Wed., March 8

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Deirdra Funcheon