Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere made history Saturday night, becoming the first player born and raised in South Florida to appear in an NHL game.
The Pembroke Pines native was called up by the injury-riddled Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and was in the lineup at Wells Fargo Center against visiting Detroit.
Gostisbehere, a third-round pick out of Union College in 2012, grew up in Margate and played for the Junior Panthers at the team’s training facility in Coral Springs before moving north.
By the time he was a teenager playing travel hockey, Gostisbehere was recruited to play at a prep school in Connecticut before eventually landing at Union College and helping lead the Dutchmen to the national championship last year.
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After a few games in the minor leagues, Gostisbehere was summoned by the Flyers to help shore up their depleted defense.
“They told me just to keep it simple and just try to get some quality minutes,” Gostisbehere told the Philadelphia Enquirer, adding his parents and grandparents were flying up from Florida to be at the game.
“I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m just taking this day by day. It’s new to me. I mean, being in the NHL is a lifelong dream for me ever since I laced up the skates for the first time.”
Although Gostisbehere is the first to come up through the South Florida youth hockey system and reach the NHL, he isn’t the first to have ties to the area.
Late Saturday night, the Panthers played the Coyotes and defenseman Connor Murphy — the son of original Panther and former assistant coach Gord Murphy.
Connor Murphy took up skating in Coral Springs during his dad’s time with the Panthers. Gord Murphy is now Gostisbehere’s defensive coach in Philadelphia.
Arizona winger Sam Gagner was the first player with South Florida youth hockey ties to play in the NHL when he broke in with Edmonton in 2007.
Gagner, son of former Panthers center Dave Gagner (1997-99), took up hockey in Coral Springs as a youngster before moving back to Canada when his dad retired not long after being traded to Vancouver as part of the Pavel Bure deal.
Coincidentally, Bure was Gostisbehere’s favorite player growing up.
Other NHL players with ties to South Florida are Carolina center Brody Sutter (who made his NHL debut Oct. 16) and Winnipeg winger Adam Lowry (who made his debut Oct. 9 in Arizona).
Both had fathers who worked for the Panthers and started skating on South Florida ice.
Duane Sutter was Florida’s head coach from 2000-02 and served in a number of capacities with the organization. Dave Lowry was an original member of the Panthers who played from 1993-97.
“We’ve seen this happen in other warm-weather markets starting after Wayne Gretzky went to California,” Panthers’ president Rory Babich said. “We’ve seen California players make it to the NHL and now you’re seeing it from Florida. I think it’s tremendous for hockey. We’re going to continue to see that grow over the years.”
Florida’s long road trip started Oct. 17 in Buffalo with Roberto Luongo getting the team its first win of the season in its fourth game by shutting out the Sabres, 1-0.
The Panthers then flew to Washington and played a game against the Capitals the following night, falling 2-1 in a shootout to earn a point in the standings.
In all, the Panthers played four games in a span of eight days — although two of those came in the first few days of the trip.
Florida’s western swing saw just two games in a week.
Had the Panthers not agreed to move up their game with Colorado to Tuesday from Thursday to avoid a conflict with the Broncos-Chargers game, the trip would have been much shorter.
“It’s been long, no doubt. I would like to be home right now to be honest with you, same with everyone else,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said.
“But it’s been a nice break for the guys out here and they did work hard. It’s good to have these kind of trips early, but it was probably a day too long.”
▪ Center Dave Bolland (groin) says he is feeling better after missing the past three games and hopes to play Thursday when the Coyotes finish off this odd home-and-home series in Sunrise.