Lost Season in Louisville

By jennifer-mccarty

Thoughts and Recollections on a lost season in Louisville

When the Florida Panthers limped to season’s end decimated by injuries all year round, it truly was an eye-opening realization that no team can compete when 367 man-games are missed and the roster is never set. The season truly affected the level of play in another team too, the AHL Louisville Panthers.

With a rotating call-up list, 14 of Louisville’s regulars saw extended time filling in at the NHL level, which included Joey Tetarenko and Brad Ference. Combined with the rotating roster in the AHL, a merciless schedule that saw Louisville play 20 of its first 23 games on the road, and a shaky ownership group, the season closely matched the NHL season as a season to forget.

Joey Tetarenko was called up for 29 games and was able to make an impact with his physical play and chipped in 3 goals as well. Brad Ference was aiming for a roster spot after a solid stint in 99-00, but had the misfortune of getting his jaw broken by Steve Smith in a game of shinny. He wasn’t able to rebound quickly enough and only got to see time in 14 games in South Florida, but is aiming for a roster spot for this upcoming season. Kyle Rossiter spent his whole season in Louisville, but his strong solid play and physical presence will make him one of the key components on the future Panther blue-line.

These 3 players took the time out of their busy off-season to give Hockey’s Future an update of what they are looking forward to, what they want to improve on, and their recollections of a season in Louisville they all quickly want to forget……

HF: What effect did the 2000-2001 season have on your morale? Is it true when they say, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”?

Joey Tetarenko: (Laughing) For me, I see it as a place that I never want to be in again, and I’ll continue to work hard to never let it happen again. As for the younger guys, I really just hope that they don’t think that’s what pro hockey is all about.

Kyle Rossiter: I think morale was very low near the end of last season but now that that season is over the players who are still with the organization are looking to move and improve on last season both on a personal and team level.

Brad Ference: I feel that this season was one where I grew as a person on and off the ice. It started out with me breaking my jaw and from then on I came back. It was hard to see how the team was doing and wins weren’t coming very easy. That is alright though, because I have never played on a team that has struggled like we did last year and now that I have experienced this I know the feeling and will do my best never to repeat it.

HF: Do you attribute Louisville’s poor season partially to the fact that Florida was constantly depending on Louisville players to pull them through their toughest stretches during the season when they were plagued with injuries?

JT: That had a lot to do with it. Louisville didn’t have as much leadership as it needed, with the loss of Captain Craig Ferguson. For some reason we thought it would be easy, we dug a hole we couldn’t get out of. There was a feeling of no stable lineup…ever.

KR: Yes, I think that was one of the main factors in our team’s lack of success.

BF: No, I don’t think that you can blame Louisville’s poor season on Florida. I was one of those players being called up and being sent down on a regular basis. It is part of hockey and every team in the AHL goes through that change and the best team to adapt to it is always the best team in the league.

HF: Was there a particular teammate that pushed you throughout the season to be your best?

JT: Not really one particular person. I did find myself focused on Rocky Thompson a lot. Whenever you wanted to do the right thing, when you found yourself doing the wrong thing, you could always look across the room to Rocky to provide an example of someone doing the job the best he can, and it had a tremendous influence.

KR: Yes, Rocky Thompson was a very good role model for the young players, as far as work ethic and personal commitment to being a pro and to the team.

BF: I think that teammate that I pushed me along was Brent Thompson. He was always the older guy and we are pretty good friends so when times were tough he helped me and in return I would help him. We played together for almost two years and knew each other pretty well so it was good to have someone like that on my team.

HF: What’s the best stress reliever after a game for you?

JT: Max & Erma’s (local restaurant) Buffalo Chicken Sandwich !!!

KR: A good meal and a good book.

BF: I don’t really do anything big to get away from the game, but I always like to get a good meal and just relax. I am always just starved after the game and a good meal then just watching some TV is good enough for me.

HF: What is the status of your contract now?

JT: As of the end of June, I’ll be a free agent, but Florida still has my rights, we’re looking to come to terms this summer.

KR: Two years remaining.

BF: I still have one more year with Florida on the last year of a three-year deal.

HF: What was the most memorable game or moment from this past season?

JT: My 2-goal game with the Florida Panthers vs. Columbus. Really, all three goals I scored were really special, but going up against Dominik Hasek who is by far one of the best goalies in the NHL was awesome. I sometimes just think to myself, “Oh my God, I scored on The Dominator!!”

KR: I think my first professional goal was a very memorable moment for myself although we didn’t win the game.

BF: The most memorable moment from this last year was when we ended up coming back against Hartford and beating them in the third period. We were down early in the game and then Rocky (Thompson) had a great fight. Brent (Thompson) also had a great fight and things turned around from there, so it was just a good team effort. Plus, playing against the former Calder Cup champs it was a good feeling.

HF: What was the best piece of advice that you came away with this season and who was it from?

KR: Rocky Thompson once told me, “You’ll get your chance, you just have to keep a positive attitude and work yourself into top-end shape.” I’ve been working hard at both of those things ever since.

BF: The best piece of advice was from my dad. He just said to only worry about things that are in your control, as long as you do that, things will work out and over the last six months where it’s made the most difference is in my attitude.

HF: What are your plans for the summer? Any great vacations planned?

JT: I’ll have my hands full with being a new dad, but other than that, I’ll be working out a lot and my parents will be coming to visit later this summer.

KR: Well, three weeks of training in Florida is coming to a close. After that, I plan to stay down here and visit Orlando and the Bahamas. Edmonton will be my home for the rest of the summer.

BF: My plan for the summer is to train in Los Angeles with a trainer that my agent sets up. This will be my fourth summer there and LA in the summer can’t be beat. I already went on my big vacation for the summer. I went to Hawaii and it was great. I spent seven days surfing, snorkeling, and doing lots of other fun stuff.

HF: What particular part of your game will you be concentrating on the most during the summer?

JT: The things I’ll be working on will be my speed, both foot and hand speed, my fore-checking, moving quickly in all situations and my strength. I just want to be able to move quickly and be consistent.

KR: Mostly my quickness, I’m doing lots of leg work in the gym and eventually quick feet stuff on the ice too.

BF: The part of my game that I am going to try and work on is trying to be a little more offensive. I want to take the puck and control the play. I think that strength is a factor, too and I have progressively put on weight and strength, as I have gotten older.

HF: Which players were most influential to you during your time with Florida?

JT: I can’t say anyone in particular; I just liked to watch everyone.

KR: Well my time with Florida was pretty much limited to camp, but Brent Thompson and Brad Ference did their best to show me the ropes.

BF: The player that has the most influence while I am in Florida is Bret Hedican. He is a good guy and really calm all the time, so he is a good guy to model yourself after. He also takes the time to talk to the young guys and make them feel more comfortable.

HF: Talk about some of the differences you experienced between NHL/AHL styles of play.

JT: In the NHL they are under control…110 mph doing the same thing, they’re doing their job

KR: One day I hope I can answer this question for you.

BF: The biggest difference between the AHL and the NHL is definitely player smarts. It is all knowing that you belong playing with these guys and then showing it. They all have an edge to them and that is what they bring to the game every night.

HF: What do you feel you need to work on in order to ensure a spot on the Florida Panthers roster for next season?

KR: Everything has to go well at camp for me to get a shot because there is a lot of experience ahead of me on the depth chart. If I don’t make the team out of camp this year I will definitely do my best to ensure an early call up.

BF: There is no way to ensure a spot on the roster next year but I can tell you that the best way to make a impression and make it tough for them, is to just play a controlled game within your limits. Things will take care of themselves.