Every season, without fail, I have to make at least one hounding trip for the Florida Panthers. It's not because they're a divisional opponent of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nor is it that Florida's roster is stocked with future Hall of Famers or Stanley Cup winners.
Nope, my reason, is this: The Panthers are one of the best-signing teams in the NHL. Every player, including its stars, seldom turns down a request. Some, like Nathan Horton, may sign after, rather than before, the team's morning skate, but they take care of hounds.
All in all, though, this team flat-out signs. Even Bryan Allen and Bryan McCabe, former notorious one-per signers, have jumped aboard the blue ink bandwagon. Trust me, it doesn't happen too often.
That's why, even if it comes across as selfish, I'll get while the getting is good. Scoring 29 autographs, including 26 cards, by myself in humid 90-plus degrees conditions is a good day.
Signing cards, shown above, before Monday's morning skate at the St. Pete Times Forum were:
Top row: Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard and Scott Clemmensen;
Middke row: Michael Frolik, Jordan Leopld and Bryan McCabe; and
Bottom row: Rostislav Olesz, Cory Stillman and Stephen Weiss.
Signing pucks were, from left, Tomas Vokoun and Dmitry Kulikov.
Other reports from the Panthers:
~ A hat trick for the Threads project;
~ the signing machine that is goalie Tomas Vokoun;
~ a couple of 2008-09 Rookie Class cards from Panthers prospects; and
~ the first "cheap skates" card of the 2009-10 campaign.