Florida: the “State of Hockey”?
The Wild’s nerve wracking 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday once again called my attention to the fact that the Hurricanes, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the two Florida teams, the Panthers in the Miami area and Tampa Lightning, are at the top of the National Hockey League standings. Of the 32 teams only the Colorado Avalanche have a better record. The Wild are tied with the Washington Capitals for the 8th spot.
It is 66 degrees in Miami and 68 in Tampa as I write this. Other warm weather spots like Las Vegas and Nashville are also high in the standings. The Wild and Colorado are excellent teams with good playoff prospects. But the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team from Canada near the top of the standings. The Montreal Canadiens, once the New York Yankees of hockey, have the worst record in the League, far behind teams from California and Arizona.
All NHL teams, including those in year round warm weather places, are loaded with players from Canada, Europe and the United States. League rosters are also sprinkled with guys with family histories in warm places like California and Florida. Many, like Penguins’ forward, Jason Zucker from Las Vegas, and the Wild’s Brandon Duhaime from Florida, have family and youth development connections in Canada.
Call me a snob, but if you look at the high school and college hockey scene in Minnesota, boys and girls, it becomes obvious that it takes more than a successful pro hockey team to earn the ”The State of Hockey” title. Still, when it comes to the state of the National Hockey League, Ogden Nash may have said it best: “When called by a Panther, don’t anther.”