Scott Gomez often refers to his hockey past as an “Ivy League education.’’
Call it Meadowlands University.
A two-time Stanley Cup champ during his formative years with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez signed a bargain-basement contract as the 33-year-old center tries to get his game going again with the Panthers.
Although Gomez is years removed from the days in which he was one of the league’s most consistent scorers, the Panthers figure he can not only contribute on the ice — he had 15 points in a limited role with San Jose last season — but off of it as well.
As Gomez learned from the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Bobby Holik and Scott Niedermayer, the Panthers hope he can impart some wisdom on their youngsters.
“I can’t stress enough how much they helped me when I was that age,’’ Gomez said from the Panthers locker room after the second day of training camp on Friday morning.
“It would be selfish not to give back at this stage of my career. That’s not how I learned to do things. And you don’t win that way. This was passed down to me, and I’ve been through the highs and lows. That will help the younger guys. I’ve seen the best first-hand. You have to give back.’’
After playing on the fourth line and finding limited minutes in San Jose, Gomez signed with the Panthers, looking for a new opportunity.
Although coach Kevin Dineen warned that just signing with the Panthers doesn’t mean players such as Gomez will “walk onto the top line,’’ he will find that opportunity is his for the taking.
The Panthers could go into the season with Gomez, Shawn Matthias, Marcel Goc and rookie Aleksander Barkov as their four centers. Who plays where is up to their play.
“When you have a guy with Scott Gomez’s number of games, you have a good idea of what he’s going to bring,’’ Dineen said.
“For me, knowing the role he played in San Jose is more minimal than in previous years. He embraced it and relished it. His coaches had nothing but good things to say about him. We look for him to come in and play some quality minutes, be in a leadership role.’’
Gomez comes to South Florida as one of the more accomplished professional athletes to hail from Alaska. Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers — a two-time NBA champ and a national champion at Kansas — is high on that list as well.
“We’re trying to follow his lead,’’ Gomez joked. “It’s been awesome seeing [Chalmers] win. We’re proud of him up there.’’
Although far away from his hometown of Anchorage, Gomez does have a kindred spirit in the Florida locker room as teammate Joey Crabb is also from Anchorage.
Crabb, who is in his fifth NHL season after spending time with Atlanta, Toronto and Washington, could find himself on a line with his summer workout partner.
“My role is a two-way forward,’’ Crabb said. “One of the reasons I feel they brought me here is to penalty kill, and that’s something I’ve done all my life.’’
• Center Nick Bjugstad remained off the ice Friday after sustaining a concussion last weekend. Bjugstad, Dineen said, will be out throughout the weekend and will not play in Monday’s preseason doubleheader against visiting Nashville.
“He’s being evaluated on a daily basis,’’ Dineen said.
• Dineen said Jonathan Huberdeau (hip) will get into some preseason games later in camp but will not play Monday. “He’ll have to jump in there and start getting involved,’’ Dineen said. “That time will come soon enough.’’