Florida Panthers

Former Panther Stephen Weiss returns as a snowbird

 

Playing nearly a decade in South Florida acclimated Stephen Weiss to warm winters. Now he returns with cold-weather Detroit.

 
Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss (90) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.
Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss (90) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.
Carlos Osorio / AP

Tuesday: Red Wings at Panthers

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560.

The series: Detroit leads 14-5-5.

Scouting report: The Panthers won in Detroit for just the third time in franchise history on Saturday night. … Tim Thomas will be back and battle Jimmy Howard between the pipes. … Pavel Datsyuk is expected to return after missing seven games with a concussion.


grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Unlike most former Panthers who keep a home in South Florida, Stephen Weiss didn’t stay at his condo when he returned to town with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

“My place is empty,” Weiss said. “I'll be at the team hotel like everyone else.”

Weiss will play his first game at BB&T Center on Tuesday since leaving the Panthers as a free agent last summer. For the first time, he will be escaping the cold and dressing in the visiting locker room.

“It's going to be strange, yeah,” he said.

Weiss may have been born near Toronto and played junior hockey in Michigan, but almost a decade in South Florida had all but turned him into a local.

An avid golfer, Weiss would often leave practice in shorts and sandals and make the quick drive to his local course for a quick 18 holes.

He’s not doing that any more.

“The first time I came out and saw ice on my windshield, I couldn't believe it,” Weiss said near the Red Wings locker room on Saturday. Outside, it was 22 degrees.

“I had to go out and buy a scraper. Gloves, too.”

The weather isn't the only thing Weiss had to get used to after moving from near obscurity following a decade with the Panthers to life in Hockeytown.

There is pressure here to not only make the playoffs, but do something once there. Weiss’ Panthers infamously have made the postseason just once since 2000. The Red Wings haven't missed the playoffs since 1990. The Panthers’ first season was in 1993.

“Confidence has been a struggle for him,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I think when you go to a new place, just not being comfortable makes it hard on you. The reality is — hockey is hockey. He’s been a good player his whole career. I don't imagine it's going to take him too much longer.”

If Weiss is feeling the pressure of playing under serious expectations, he won’t admit it.

It does seems like something he needs to get adjusted to as he has only two goals and two assists in 25 games with Detroit. Weiss didn’t find the scorecard in Florida's 2-1 win at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

“Trying too hard sometimes can backfire on you,” Weiss said. “I think that was the case early on. I came here to be a part of something, to win hockey games. We’ve been doing that. It’s fun seeing your team at the top of the standings. That’s been a lot of fun. Personally, I’ll get that going soon.”

Said Henrik Zetterberg: “We play a little different system than they do down there and it takes time to adjust. But he’s playing well, doing a lot of little things on the ice that he doesn’t get credited for. He’s going to be here for a long, long time. We’re happy to have him.”

Weiss had become the face of the Panthers over his time in South Florida as his NHL career literally started in Sunrise when Florida made him the fourth overall pick of the 2001 draft held at what is now called the BB&T Center.

Over the next nine seasons, Weiss became the franchise’s all-time leader in games played and one of its all-time leaders in various categories.

Yet when it came time for a new contract, the Panthers didn’t have any money. The team was for sale and Weiss had missed most of the previous season after opting for major wrist surgery. Florida let him walk away to Detroit without putting up any sort of fight to keep him.

On July 5, Weiss signed a five-year deal with the Red Wings worth an average of $4.9 million. Weiss averaged $3.1 million a season over his past six years in Florida.

Weiss would have been the big news on the first day of free agency had the Red Wings not also lifted Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa.

“It’s been fun, but it’s been an adjustment; the weather, getting settled, all those things,” Weiss said. “It's something I’m not used to. But I played junior hockey in this area so I have friends here. I really enjoyed my time here so far. Being a part of this organization is something special.”

Weiss has most definitely been missed by the Panthers, although some within the organization look at his current stats and figure not offering him a contract was the right decision.

When Florida made the playoffs two seasons ago, the line of Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Flesichmann led the NHL in scoring.

The band was broken up soon after. Versteeg, who signed a four-year deal with the Panthers in 2012, was traded back to Chicago last month.

“I already miss him here,” Fleischmann said. “He was a great player in Florida for a long time. I think it will be special for him.”

Read more Florida Panthers stories from the Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category