The Florida Panthers went to Fenway Park on Sunday.
While it was a beautiful, picturesque day for a ballgame, the hockey players had South Florida on their minds.
A number of players were part of a group effort in collecting funds for hurricane relief at Sunday’s Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
As Hurricane Irma lashed at South Florida, Florida hockey players stood outside the gates of Fenway collecting money for charity.
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And they weren’t alone.
Florida players such as Derek MacKenzie, Vincent Trocheck, James Reimer, Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad and Alex Petrovic were joined by players from the Rays, Red Sox and Boston Bruins.
On Tuesday, the Panthers — along with the Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL and the player’s association — announced a joint donation of $2.7 million to hurricane relief in Florida. The Panthers donated $1 million to that cause.
“The Bruins are a division rival and we’re going to be battling in a few weeks,” MacKenzie said of the Bruins who helped out including Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Torey Krug.
“But on Sunday, we got along. We put that all aside for a day. The Bruins are so popular there, it was almost like we were just there to support them. They took the time out of their schedule to help us raise money which was cool.
“And being at Fenway Park ... you always hear how great a sports town Boston is. It seemed like everyone coming into the game put something in the bucket for us. It was a great idea and a real cool experience.”
The Panthers were in Boston after team owner Vinnie Viola arraigned for a charter plane to fly players, coaches and staff members — as well as their families and pets — to Massachusetts ahead of Irma.
The players set up shop in Boston where they worked out on the ice at Boston University. Yandle and former Bruins enforcer and Florida forward-turned-executive Shawn Thornton showing the players around town.
The Panthers had contingency plans to open training camp in Springfield, Massachusetts, in case there was serious damage to their training facility in Coral Springs as had been the case during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Instead, the Panthers will open camp at home as planned. The team could hold physicals and report to camp as early as Thursday morning with the first on-ice practice session of the 2017-18 NHL season on Friday morning at the IceDen in Coral Springs.
The Florida contingent flew home Tuesday afternoon.
For MacKenzie, this hasn’t been a typical start to camp what with the storm and the displacement, but they understand others have been going through much, much worse.
“It’s not ideal obviously and we have lost some days of training but we were able to get to Boston and get some training in,” MacKenzie said.
“It was nice to get to Boston, travel and hang out with the guys. We got to get together and make decisions on what we were going to do about the important stuff like getting our families out and keeping them safe but also look ahead to the season. We may pull off that somewhere down the line.
“But the reality is, this isn’t our normal approach to camp. We haven’t had the normal routine leading up to camp, but there’s a lot of stuff at home that isn’t routine right now.. We’ll figure this out. Our coaching staff has been great and they have done what’s best for us as a group. It has been good.”