Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers pay visit to United States Military Academy at West Point

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammates Jonathan Huberdeau (11), Jussi Jokinen (36) and Brian Campbell (51) during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Tampa, Fla.
Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammates Jonathan Huberdeau (11), Jussi Jokinen (36) and Brian Campbell (51) during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. AP

With such deep organizational roots, it was just a matter of time before the Panthers visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The Panthers, with West Point ties throughout the front office, headed north on Sunday for a few days of Army training as well as traditional hockey activities.

With Thursday’s season opener approaching, the Panthers won’t do too many crazy things, although the team will be put through its paces.

A good number of professional sports teams train at West Point to hone not only their physical skills but also their mental ones.

“To put it as simply as I can, we want to put the team in an environment that I believe represents everything a team should strive to achieve,” said owner Vinnie Viola, a 1977 graduate of the Academy.

“Esprit, camaraderie and sacrifice for each other is what that place’s DNA is all about. The idea that you will sacrifice yourself in support of the mission, protect your brother to the right and the left. From Day One, the talk is the mission is bigger than any individual.”

The team had activities scheduled for when it arrived Sunday.

On Monday, the team will hold an open practice at Tate Rink before taking in the annual Thayer Award ceremony at which former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is being honored.

The Panthers also will work their way up Mount Tourne — where the team’s newest captain is expected to be named once they all make it to the top.

“Going to West Point is going to be a real positive for us,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I haven’t been there in the past, but I hear good things about the experience, and I know our guys are excited about it. We’ll have two real good practice days as well.”

The Panthers plan on flying back to South Florida after having lunch in the West Point mess hall on Tuesday.

The team will practice in Coral Springs on Wednesday morning before traveling to Tampa for Thursday’s season opener.

This will be the Panthers’ third training session at West Point, having previously traveled there in 1995 and 2007.

▪ Top draft pick Aaron Ekblad was paired with Brian Campbell in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the host Lightning, and Gallant liked what he saw.

Ekblad, 18, had been teamed with Willie Mitchell throughout training camp.

“That was his best game by far,’’ Gallant said. “They were awesome [Saturday], I thought they played really well.

“We’re real happy with that combination.”

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