Florida Panthers goalie Spencer Knight went to a Blink-182 concert, made sushi with his teammates, and got to see some familiar faces and meet new people.
It sounds like a vacation, but it was also a big step for me to get back into the NHL.
Knight has been on the ice this week in development camp with the Panthers, the first time he’s been around the team since entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in February. He was not with the Panthers for the rest of the season, including his run to the Stanley Cup Final. The development camp has events on and off the ice, including this week’s concert at the team’s home stadium and other team-building events.
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«Honestly, I approach it like it’s a great opportunity to play hockey,» Knight said. «I think any opportunity to play hockey is a great opportunity. But honestly, in terms of my game, I think it is as well. You have to go in there and work hard.»
Knight has not addressed his reasons for joining the show. The Panthers revealed last month that they had been in contact with Knight and believe he will be with the team when he begins training camp in the fall, though that doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’ll return to the NHL immediately.
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«He’s doing well and we expect him back in the fall,» general manager Bill Zito said.
Knight isn’t the oldest player in the development field — it’s mostly for players moving up from the junior and college levels — but he’s the only one on the ice in Florida this week with NHL experience. He started in 19 games and appeared in 21 last season, going 9-8-3 with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
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He last appeared in Florida on February 18 and said he was enjoying being back on the ice.
«There are things that I’m working on here, whether it’s your positioning or your skating, (that) I always say you can’t really replicate in environments where there’s no structure or intensity,» Knight said. «So this is a step… It’s fun to just get back into the swing of things.»
The NHL and NHLPA started the player assistance program in 1996, providing players with access to a confidential phone line and counselors in every league city. The jointly funded group helps players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other issues.