Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/10/13
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. As Thursday mornings informal skate by Florida Panthers players concluded, free agent Alexei Kovalev stepped off the ice to give his stick to a female fan in a wheelchair.It was a nice gesture that rewarded one Panthers fan for returning to support her favorite team immediately after the NHL lockout. I was disappointed in the lockout, even mad at times, but I love the game and players too much to not give them a second chance, said the fan, Jen Babicz, who also had her jersey signed by right wing Kris Versteeg. I believe the players and owners apologies. Its time for the game to continue to grow. Just happy to have hockey back.But what will it take to re-engage the many fans who remain angry that more than three months of the NHL season have been lost?I cant speak for them, I know we have a lot of work to do, Panthers executive vice presidentgeneral manager Dale Tallon said. We can only focus on what our jobs are. Our task at hand is to put the best possible team on the ice, win some games and play hard and thats what were going to do.It may take a little while but certainly with the quality of people we have, that makes a difference, Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. And at the end, its what you see on the ice. I feel we play an entertaining game and I think were an easy team to like. I think our fans really connected with us last year and Im hoping that helps us re-establish a relationship.Tallon and Dineen watched as approximately 12 players skated at the teams training facility. The workouts will be informal until the NHL Players Association ratifies the labor agreement with the league. Thats expected Saturday with camp officially opening Sunday.Teams will play no preseason games before an intense 48-game in-conference schedule begins Jan. 19.Everyones starting at the same time, there are no excuses we have to be ready, forward Shawn Matthias said. Its going to show pretty quickly who did the work while we were off. If you took any weeks off, or thought it was a good time to slack, its going to show in the 48 games.Thats not to say players who remained in playing shape simply will pick up where they left off.Theyll be some pretty sloppy playoff hockey right at the start of the season, Versteeg said, because it's going to be battling for points all the way in.Dineen played for the Philadelphia Flyers when the 1994-95 lockout ended on Jan. 11 and resulted in a similarly condensed schedule. He said as a coach, hell use a few things learned during that experience.First, to be cautious and respectful that were going to be asking a lot of these guys in a shortened period, Dineen said. (Then) to know every game is going to be a playoff-type atmosphere. Things are going to happen fast and furious.The Panthers are coming off a season in which they captured their first division title in franchise history. Their playoff run ended in a double-overtime Game 7 during a first-round series against the New Jersey Devils.Florida should contend again for the Southeast Division crown. It will get very familiar with division rivals, playing Carolina, Tampa Bay, Washington and Winnipeg four or five times apiece.Veterans Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Marek Svatos have been invited to camp in hopes of giving the Panthers some desired goal-scoring ability.Once the puck drops, the Panthers certainly could use the fan support enjoyed during the last postseason.You say youre sorry, Matthias said, and the way you show youre sorry is by going on the ice every night, and putting 150 percent effort into every shift and showing them that you care, and care about this team and this city.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NFL denies sending Donald Trump letter about schedule

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions


Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker