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Tales (or is that Tails?) from Pantherland...


kevin01.jpg
Kevin Weeks

Cheesey
 
Sports agents sort of strike me as a cross between attorneys and horse traders.  You have to know a little of both to be successful.  Not that they are bad people.  Well, some of them.
 
Rich Winters is likely the worst, but he does have some of the biggest names in the business.
 
Rick Langnas is pretty nice, and I do really like Kevin Weekes' agent, Tony.  Although I think Tony gave him some bad advice in regards to his contract negotiations with the Florida Panthers.
 
Not that I would ever tell either of them this.  Despite my personal feelings for the situation, I never said anything that wasn't 100% behind their decision.
 
Maybe in the end it worked out for the best.  At least, that year, Kevin spent most of the time in the IHL with the Vipers until he got traded to Vancouver.  The Vipers goalie went down just before their playoff series with the Solar Bears. That was the year that Cully (Brent Cullaton) got called up to Orlando for the Post Season, although he barely played.
 
But I followed the Solar Bears that whole season.
 
Kevin had been netting shut out after shut out with the Vipers earlier and when they lost their goalie, they tried to get him back from the Cannucks.  Vancouver said no.  A bunch of people on the Solar Bears list were ready to buy Vancouver jerseys, just for that!  The Vips went with Lamothe in net and lost in round 3 and the Solar Bears went on to be eventually downed by the Houston Aeros.
 
I honestly do not remember meeting Kevin.  Sometimes it seems like I always knew him, but I recall it was sometime during the 1996-97 season when he was with the old AHL Carolina Monarchs.  In any case, I'd had a message for him from his Pee Wee coach, and since he refuses to have a computer, I went and delivered it.  Don't even remember what it was about now.
 
Anyway, I waited for him after practice and he finally wandered out...
 
This is something else that bothers me about my favorite players.  Why do I always have to pick the last ones out the locker room?   Pete (Hogan) was terrible about that as is my friend Brad (May).
 
In any case...he finally came out and came right on over to see me.  He always does.  I delivered the message and he was just all smiles and laughing.  He introduced me to the guy he'd come out with.
 
"This is my agent, Tony.  Tell him what you just told me."
 
So I repeated the message to Tony as Kevin went off to sign autographs.
 
The repartition of the message lead to a conversation about how I'd come to know Kevin, which lead to Tony looking through my photo album which in turn lead to a conversation about masks.
 
Kevin insists he got into goaltending because he loves the equipment, but in trying to talk equipment with him, he gets really vague on the subject.  His folks said it was because he was adamant about playing hockey but he was such a small fellow that he got put into net so he wouldn't get run over and hurt.
 
In any case, he averages at least two masks a year.
 
"I don't know what he does with them all!" Tony told me.
 
I laughed and suggested his folks have a basement on their home in Scarborough and all the old masks are stored on shelves.  I also told him my favorite was the "Raging Lion" design he'd had for part of the second year in AHL Carolina. That's also where he latched onto his current mask maker, Masked Expressions, which is also the designer for most of the NHL Carolina helmets.
 
I should ask his mom sometime, as he sure as hell won't tell me.
 
So we ended up discussing helmets and Kevin finally came back over to collect Tony.
 
Tony looks at me and says "Tell him what you just told me."
 
Slight segue: There was a guy on the radio yesterday who had wrote a book on meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right and he insists the key to it all it talking.
 
Women, he says hold all the power in this and the best way to meet a guy is to stop thinking about them as guys and start thinking about them as Golden Retrievers.  Golden Retrievers are easy to attract.
You cruise down the cereal aisle in the Publix, he said, because cereal is the favorite food of all men.  It requires them to add just one ingredient, milk.  So while your prospective Mr. Right is picking up a box of cereal, you pick up another one, make eye contact and start a conversation.  Talking about cereal is great.  In any case, you should end the conversation with "It was really nice talking to you" and hint at getting is phone number.
 
He said it works.  He then went off to say that the Golden Retriever will go off to his car and immediately (it doesn't matter if he only has one minute left on this calling plan, he'll pay over for this) call the rest of the Golden Retrievers in his litter to tell them all about this "hot babe" he picked up at the Publix.
 
(Somehow, I do not think it will work for me, as it would be a real stretch of the imagination for anyone -- even a Golden Retriever -- to classify me as a hot babe.)
 
But now, I'm wondering if the pound puppies in question here actually speak to each other directly when they are alone together.  One assumes they do and that they do not need a female along to interpret for them.  Then again, maybe that's why Kevin got such bad advice from Tony.  There wasn’t a girl around to act as a go between.
 
Anyway, we went back through the helmet conversation.  I suggested one with a profile of Mike Jordan going up for a dunk with the slogan "I want to be like Mike!"  It was popular at the time and Jordan is his favorite athlete.  He thought about it.  I then suggested a "cheesy" (Cheetos) theme and he quickly killed that.  His nickname is "Cheesy" which comes from the days of his being a youngster and coming into the rink each day with a bag of "cheesies" (Cheetos) and a soda.  He'd ask for tips from the older goalies, who ended up dubbing him "Cheesy". 
 
He hates that nickname.
 
I'll never let him live it down. 


Glowing
 
Remember the old Fox Trax Pucks?  I have one that was done up so that when it's hit hard, the sides of it blink.  The real ones didn't do that but...
 
I have this friend, Evan, who is really gullable.  You can pull his leg 99.9% of the time. Anyway, I met him for a Panthers game one Saturday afternoon during the time that Fox was using those, and he was going off about how cool it was that it was being televised etc.  Anyway, I said "Yeah, except we have to put up with the glowing pucks." 
 
"But those are only on TV," he counters.
 
"No they're not," I tell him.  "They glow in the arena too."
 
"No way!" he says.
 
"Yes, way," I say. "Look, I've got one of them right here," and pull the puck out of my pocket, smack it against the wall and the hand the glowing puck to him.
 
Granted, it looks real, with the Fox logo and NHL shield on it.
 
He freaked.  He started running around the arena like a fool showing everyone the glowing puck.  God...was he embrassed when the game started!!! 

Lausy
 
I have a bunch of things to write about, but Gwenny was talking about weird dreams.  This is a hockey one I remember from a few years ago, only because it was so weird for me.
 
My friend Diane had the biggest case on Panthers enforcer Paul Laus.  He's not my friend, but I've very close to his parents. 
 
Me to Paul:  "Hey, you're parents left two weeks ago and I haven't heard from them recently.  When are they arriving?
 
Paul to me:  "How should I know. You talk to them more then I do.  One day, they will just show up in my yard."
 
I personally have NO interest in the guy, aside from what he does on the ice, but his folks are really cool.  In any case...
 
I was really sick at the time of this dream and in this dream, I was -- guess what? -- really sick!
 
This is also why I wear a nightshirt to bed.  If I sleep naked, I'm always naked in my dreams.  If I've got a nightshirt on, I'm at least properly clothed in my dreams.
 
In any case, I was really sick and Lausy came over to check on me.   How he got into the house and into my bedroom, I don't know, because I was still in bed and didn't let him in.  But he showed up at my bedside.
 
We did the "I'm Okay, and no, I don't need anything from the store" routine, and then he starts looking at my hockey sticks.  He gets to Kevin's and says "We'll what's wrong with this one?  It doesn't look broken to me."
 
"There's nothing wrong with it," I reply.  "He left it in Washy's (Steve Washburn's) garage at the end of the season and I rescued it."  Which is actually how I got it!
 
Several years ago, Nike did a bunch of "out-of-work goalie" commercials, which, to this day I still love!  This particular dream took a part from the "janitor" commercial.
 
In the commercial, the goalie is in full gear, but has a mop instead of his stick, as he goes into his moves in this neatly polished hallway, where a guy in a suite stands, waiting for the elevator, wondering how he's going to escape this freak:
 
"I tried a glove save!  I couldn't stop him!
 
"I tried a kick save!  I couldn't stop him!"
 
Well, in the dream, Lausy is in jeans and a T, but he goes into the full routine using Kevin's stick as a prop.
 
I nearly choked to death laughing!
 
He comes over afterwards and sits on my bed, and I give him a peck on the cheek and say "Thanks, Lausy.  Laughter really is the best medicine!"
 
:-)
 
A note on the name: For his first two years with the Panthers, it was pronounced as louse (lous).  The Cats decided they could make more money with the name "Laws" as in Laus-enforcement, so the pronunciation suddenly changed.
 
Evan once dared me to call him "lousey" to his face, which I did right in front of Evan.  He laughed and gave me a hug for it.  Evan was left to scrape is jaw off the pavement.
 
Yes, John and Rhea are my "In-Laus" (pronounced "in-laws") but I still get a kick out of calling him "lousey"

Pantherfest 2002 and Power Ranger

Pantherfest is for me, sort of like the first robin of spring.  It means hockey season is right around the corner.  And even if I never go see a Panthers' game during the year I always go to Pantherfest.
 
Okay technically it's called Hockeyfest, but the Panthers have no imagination.
 
My main reasons for going are to get my picture taken with a Florida Panther (one of the feline kind), buy last year's media guides for $1.00 each (I netted 15 this year!) and marvel at their trainer's room.
 
When I win the lotto and build an arena for my hockey team to play in (off I-10 in Tallahassee, Florida) I'm going to build a training room like that. 
 
I also kind of wanted to get Roberto Luongo's autograph but I was unable to find the poster I wanted him to sign.  I did take the latest issue of Goalie's World Magazine (he's the subject of their style analysis feature) and on a whim grabbed my Paul Laus sweater out of the closet. 
 
It could well be Lausy's last year, so I thought maybe I should get him to sign it, just in case I didn't get to see him again.
 
If you are Panthers season ticket holder you get free admission to this shindig.  If not it's $5.00 to get in OR, if you are buying Panthers game tickets that day, they will give you a pass to get in.
 
I opted for the $5.00 version until I figure out which, if any games I'm going to.  (Must compare schedules you know.  Balancing all the teams here in Florida is not easy!)
 
Last year they had Pantherfest only admission on one side, season ticket holder sales on the other side.  This year we all got to wait together in one very long line.  It moved surprisingly fast, but it was still a good half-hour out in the blazing sun of South Florida.
I did my initial circuit of the concourse, had my picture take with a BIG panther this year (last year it was a panther kitten) and talked to the guy from Billie Swamp Safari about his hawk.  He told me to come out and if I asked for him, he'd take me and show me all of his birds, which are free flyers and which he hunts with.  He was impressed because I not only knew what kind of hawk it was, but that it was a female as well.  Hawking is kind of a hobby of mine.
 
By this time it was just before one and I had ended up at the section where Paul Laus was to be signing. 
 
Three years ago, you stood in line forever or sat on the floor.  Last year they hit on this great idea.  Everyone goes to a certain section and you pick a seat and sit down and they take you over row by row to get your autographs.  Much more comfortable for the fans, and much more orderly for the security.
 
I succumbed to three young boys pleas and let them cut in line in front of me.
 
Anyway, the event proceeds orderly and there are four players signing, not just Paul and I get to the top of the row and look and...well...couldn't believe my eyes.
 
I guess I somehow missed the announcement. 
 
It was Power Ranger, a.k.a. Tyrone Garner, the goalie for the Greenville Grrrowl and Kelly Cup MVP for last season.
 
"Weren't you getting on a bus to Greenville the last time I saw you?" I asked.
 
"Yeah," he said smiling and looking just as surprised to see me.  "I think so."
 
"What are you doing here?"
 
"What do you think?"
 
"They signed you?"
 
"Yeah."
 
"Oh Ty!  That is so wonderful!  I'm so happy for you!  Where are you going to play?  San An?"
 
"Yeah, I think so."
 
Oh...but I'm really going miss him on ECHL ice and I'm going to be so jealous of the San An fans getting to watch him play!  He's a marvelous goaltender!
 
Really though, if I'd know he was going to be at Pantherfest I would have taken an 8 x 10!  Well...I guess I'll catch him on Saturday night again. 
 
I congratulated him on his championship too.  The whole Greenville team did a great job, but Ty was especially phenomenal for them. 
 
That was just such a total surprise and I was so pleased to see him again. 
 
As for the nickname Power Ranger...two years ago when he playing for the Grrrowl -- and even earlier this year -- he had the Calgary Flames equipment which was very bright and colorful.  I'd been sitting in "the pit" a.k.a. section 119 at TECO arena watching the game.  There was a little boy in front of me, maybe four who was very intent on the game as well.
After the first period the goalies rotated and the youngster became very confused. 
 
"Where did our goalie go?"  he asks his mother, somewhat upset by this occurrence.
 
"That's our goalie," his mother says, pointing to the Everblades’ goalie.
 
"No!  I mean OUR goalie!"
 
"That IS OUR goalie," his mother tells him.
 
He seems rather upset by this and finally blurts out "I mean OUR goalie, the Power Ranger goalie!"
 
So he's been Power Ranger ever since.  That's Ty for you.  Making fans and friends everywhere.
 
I told Ty that story once, when he was getting on a bus, bound for Greenville.
 
Wow!  Saturday's preseason game may end up looking like last season's playoff game.  Randy Petruk will be starting for the Hurricanes, that announced today in the paper, and it's early...maybe the Cats will put in Power Ranger!
 
I puchased six packs of cards before I left.  Lots of Panthers cards, but not one Hurricane's card (Unless I count the one of Shane Willis with Tampa Bay).  Bummer.  On the bright side, i didn't get any Patrick Roy cards either!  :)



Suck Hole
 
I have, for several years now, been referred to as the "Official Suck Hole" of the Florida Panthers.  I figure as I was awarded it, it's mine to give away!  :-)
 
How I got it goes something like this:
 
I was hanging out at the Panthers practice rink when one of the employees who also serves as an assistant equipment manager for the Cats asked me what I thought was the dumbest question I'd every heard.
 
"Do you want to meet Dominik Hasek?"
 
It's still the dumbest question I've every heard.  He had to ASK that?
 
Anyway, after getting the post-game passes straightened out, I tottled off to Sawgrass Mills and found a nice white replica Buffalo Sabres jersey (unlettered) for him to sign.   I wore it to the game that night.
 
Walking into the arena, the first people I should run into would be John and Rhea, the parents of Panthers' enforcer Paul Laus.  (Sometimes referred to my as my In-Laus. The last time he signed with the team I was told, 'you're stuck with them for another four years.'  I replied that was fine, as I like the whole family, including their little dog, Princess.)
 
"What is that you're wearing?" Rhea asks immediately.
 
"Oh!  I'm going to meet Dominik Hasek tonight so I bought this for him to sign."
She looked at me and said "You're a suck hole, you know that?"
 
Hence forth (as the story got around) I became the first Official Florida Panthers Suck Hole -- at least as far as the fans are concerned -- and I've continued to suck up to the visiting teams in Panthers territory since!
 
And yes, I did meet the Dominator and yes, he did sign my jersey.  I'm working on the rest of the team now.  I will say I was so nervous during the proceedings that I scribbled on my stomach with the sharpie, which was uncapped at the time, so if you happen to catch me wearing that sweater, that's not an autograph on my stomach, it's jittery nerves.
 
 

"Now we've got someone our fans can really hate." ~ Phil Esposito, Tampa Bay Lightning GM, on the Florida Panthers franchise

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