Though the Panthers were at the most distant NHL location from Wednesday afternoon’s school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Vancouver for Wednesday night’s game, they might’ve been closer to the shooting in many ways than any other South Florida team.
“Obviously, it really hits home with us,” Panthers center Nick Bjugstad said on Fox Sports Florida after getting a goal and an assist in the Panthers’ 4-3 win. “A lot of guys live a couple of minutes from that high school. A lot of them have kids in that system.”
Parkland’s been packed with Panthers since shortly after they moved their practice rink to Coral Springs in 1998. Before the game, the Canucks franchise held a moment of silence for the 17 killed in the shooting.
“Pretty tough day, we got a lot of the news around lunch time, just before (pregame) nap,” Panthers captain and Parkland resident Derek MacKenzie said during a first intermission interview on Fox Sports Florida. “Probably a lot tougher on our wives today. A lot of them have been stuck in lines with kids left in lockdown. With all that said, we’re very fortuntate that all our families got out of it safely. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims.”
MacKenzie also expressed appreciation for the Parkland, Coral Springs and Broward Sheriff’s Office role in keeping the tragedy from being worse.
The Panthers lead 4-2 and, for the first time since his injury, Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo dressed as a backup. But when color commentator Randy Moller tried to ask about the game, MacKenzie’s answer told where part of his mind remained.
“Obviously, it’s not about us, it’s about what’s going on back there,’ MacKenzie said. “It wasn’t 10 minutes after the news broke that every buy had checked in on our group chat that their families are OK. I think it’s a pretty somber dressing room right now. But, like you said, we do have a job to do. Getting two points, going back home would feel pretty good.”
They got those two points, their sixth win in the last seven games.
“We mentioned we’re going to play for the people in Sunrise and Parkland tonight,” Bjugstad said. “If we can make a few people happy...it’s so tough that stuff like this happens in schools, which should be the safest places in the world.”