The Florida Panthers, the NHL’s southern-most team, made a trip a little further south than usual to conduct an ice hockey clinic on the island of Barbados. This was the second consecutive summer that the Panthers were able to make the trip to the southern Caribbean island.
While the work the club did with the community on their first trip involved a ball hockey clinic, the Cats decided to take things up a level on their second trip by holding the NHL’s first ice hockey clinic in the Caribbean.
The Panthers were partnered by Icetopia Skating Rink in Wildey, Barbados, to host the clinic. Icetopia has been operating since September 2016, and provides the local community in Barbados with the chance to give ice skating a go on an artificial surface.
A number of players and officials made the journey across the Atlantic to help facilitate the event. These included the Panthers defensemen Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen, Vice President of Business Operations, Shawn Thornton and Vice President of Broadcasting and Alumni, Randy Moller.
“It’s pretty cool, pretty unique.”
The Panthers stars revealed that they were really pleased and pleasantly surprised by how quickly the youngsters that participated in the clinic took to the game on the synthetic surface. Alex Petrovic said, “It’s pretty cool, pretty unique. It’s a little bit different skating on the artificial ice. Some of the kids who come here regularly are actually really good at skating on it. It took myself a couple of minutes just kind of getting used to it.”
Alex Petrovic, Ian McCoshen and Shawn Thornton were on hand to help teach the youngsters the basics of skating, passing and stickhandling, before the final test of the clinic, which was a shootout against the clubs’ mascot Stanley C. Panther, who became goalie for the day.
Shawn Thornton, who has only recently retired from playing said he was thrilled to see so much enthusiasm from those who attended and picked out his star pupil at the clinic, a young girl called Jessica King.
Thornton, who is a two-time Stanley Cup winner said, “The kids picked it up pretty quickly. I think it was the first time actually having a hockey stick in their hands. I had Jessica doing trick passes with me.”
The young girl, who wore a huge smile throughout the clinic, was to receive a further surprise. Thornton offered her and her family the chance to fly over to Florida to watch a Panthers game at the BB&T Center. There is then the opportunity for her to learn even more hockey on the ice at the Panthers IceDen.
Before they arrived at Icetopia, the Panthers travelling contingent were able to experience some of the local surroundings and natural beauty of Barbados. The entourage enjoyed paddle-boarding in the clear blue waters of the island, and toured the huge Harrison’s Cave. The player’s and officials, along with Stanley C. Panther, went on to visit the Nightingale Children’s Home, taking gifts for the children that stay there.
Panthers defensemen, Ian McCoshen, who was named Springfield Thunderbirds Community Man of the Year, said of the visit to the children’s home, “It was really special to see their faces when they saw Stanley. Just to bring them some joy was really special. Coming to Icetopia and teaching them some hockey is just the cherry on top.”
“They’ve been so hospitable and we’ve have had such a good time.”
Thornton added, “This is our second year coming back to Barbados and we’ve had a blast. They’ve been so hospitable and we’ve have had such a good time. We’ve been treated like gold since we’ve been here and we’re trying to return the favour.”