The Florida Panthers have had as many games played (4) this NHL season as they have had postponed.

With the league not in a bubble, the coronavirus will continue to play havoc with the schedule.

Brett Connolly of Prince George is among the Panthers forced to make an adjustment in their routine.

“When we leave the rink we are on our own to make good decisions and to obviously not get infected. Every day you show up to the rink to get tested whether it’s an off day, game day or practice and then masks are on when changing in the locker room and we are just trying to stay as safe and as smart as possible,” said Connolly in a recent interview with Brendan Pawliw of mypgnow.com.

“We’ve had some cases on our team with guys testing positive and it’s been out there in the media so it’s not exactly a secret.”

While the Panthers have seven out of a possible eight points with a record of 3-0-1, Connolly is off to a slow start with no points in four games. He is averaging just 11:36 of ice time, well below the 14:30, he averaged in the 2019-20 season.

The Cariboo Cougar and PG Cougar graduate signed a four-year $13 million dollar contract in 2019.

He produced 33 points (19 goals) in 69 games in his first season in a Panthers uniform.

“I had a really good start – probably the best first half that I have had since joining the NHL. It probably wasn’t the best second half that I’ve had. It was a bunch of highs and lows for me personally. I think for me, doing my part, playing good hockey, and getting to that 20-goal pace that I have set a standard for myself the last few years.”

The state of Florida is one of the COVID-19 hot spots in the U.S. with over  1.6 million cases and 26,000 deaths.

However, there are far fewer restrictions than in B.C. so players have to be careful about what they do in their spare time.

“It’s just kind of a situation where no matter what is around us here everything is full throttle and it looks like normal life,” said Connolly.

“Country to country, state to state, province to province everyone is handling it differently and this is one of the states that from the very start has been very wide open and right now, life is a full go here in Florida. For us, you go home, and you don’t really do too much else you just be as careful as possible with the grocery stores and everything else open.”

Connolly, a Stanley Cup champion with the Washington Capitals in 2018, had a tiny example of what playing in a bubble was like last year in Toronto.

“Was it an ideal situation no, was it easy no but we didn’t have a choice and had to make do with what we had, and I thought that players, staff, and the NHL did an amazing job getting a good product on the ice after three months of doing nothing and getting thrown right into playoffs.”

Connolly and the Panthers went home early after being eliminated in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

While many NHL teams are currently playing in front of an empty arena, the Panthers are allowing some spectators to attend their home games.

“We’ve actually been fortunate to have some fans in our building. It’s nice to play at home and have your 4,000 fans even if it is not that full it’s still nice to have a few bodies in there and have it somewhat of a normal feeling.”

How long will it be until rinks are full again?

We are over 10 months into the pandemic and the answer to that question is still very much undetermined.

#Added NOTE#

After Connolly played in his 500th NHL game on Thursday, he was a healthy scratch in Florida’s 3-2 overtime win over Detroit on Saturday (Jan 30th).


FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell referenced Jeff Bridges’ The Big Lebowski in his introductory news conference. But for as long as anyone can remember in Detroit, it’s been more like Bad Times at the El Royale

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

As we head to the end of January and close to a year living with the pandemic, a number of cancelled sporting events we’re really missing right now. One of them is NOT the Pro Bowl.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

Yogi Berra, the late Yankees legend, is about to get his own commemorative postage stamp. New U.S. Postal Service motto: It ain’t delivered till it’s delivered.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/


IN CASE, YOU MISSED IT

Police in California reportedly found an ‘alligator-like creature’ guarding a stash of illegal drugs. I’m thinking it was croc cocaine.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca