Hockey is back. This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to my first hockey game of the season - it was opening night at the BB&T Center. The Panthers victoriously defended their home turf against my least favorite team in the league, The Flyers.
The Panther's not only slayed the Flyers 7-1, but they also beat them up. It was nice to see Thorton acting as the enforcer that he is meant to be. Since his trade from Boston, I felt like he wasn't playing his game or wasn't given the opportunity. But it was just lovely to see him acting like his old self, wreaking a little havoc on the ice. Worth noting - Jagr might be old as hell, but he scored two goals. As long as he keeps scoring, and can keep up with the youngins', keep him out there - mullet n' all. Smith (also a former Bruin!) rocketed two goals, as well.
I know it's way too early to jump to any conclusions, but I will say I was impressed with the readiness that the Panthers displayed. I was embarrassed for the Flyers - they were slow, they were sloppy, and they did nothing memorable. Not to discredit them, but I've seen junior teams play with more tenacity.
I also noted some positive changes of the overall experience of attending a Panther's game.
- The infamous and weird "RAWR" that used to blast throughout the games was only heard once and with music overlaying it. Thank you sweet baby Jesus.
- Although it was opening night, it was a sold out game which makes me slightly more optimistic for the franchise. Nice to see.
- They got rid of the painfully awkward entertainment, particularly, "The Rat Pack." This caffeine/coke/something fueled group was formed back when the Panther's made the playoffs in the late 90's. It always felt like such a joke as they were paying tribute to something so long ago. Their form of entertainment reminded me of the weird theater kids from high school - and I don't mean the cool kind of weird. Removing this group I think says that they are trying to get this franchise to be taken seriously. I respect that.
- Music selection drastically improved. I actually felt like I was at a rink.
While there still seems to be no ketchup or poutine to enjoy from concessions, I'm pretty stoked at the aforementioned changes. It's the first time where I felt like I could maybe take the franchise seriously. I hope the changes are here to stay, and job well done to the folks who pushed to make them happen.