Ice hockey team to be honored by Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers will be honoring the University of Miami’s first National Championship team in several years: the 2011 Division II roller hockey team. Starting last semester, the team gave up their roller blades for ice skates and they’re trying to bring the same success to the ice rink.

“UM Night,” as the event is being called, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Bank Atlantic Center on Feb. 23. The hope is for the event to help promote the Canes’ new ice hockey team.

Club president Steven McLean noted that the switch to ice hockey has been enjoyable.

“The majority of our team has grown up playing on ice,” he said. “We are used to the speed and contact.”

Tom Braga, the coach of the Hurricanes ice hockey team who believes they have already “exceeded expectations” in their first season, thinks the event will benefit both the Hurricanes and Panthers very much.

Braga believes that the event will help the Panthers gain more exposure in the Miami-Dade area, where the team used to be more popular before their move to Broward.

Before the Panthers game, the Hurricanes will be facing off against Florida Atlantic University at 1:30 p.m. FAU, though, was refusing to play against the Canes before they got the Panthers to allow them to play at the Bank Atlantic Center.

This is largely in part of the first-year 16-game probation automatically placed on any new team.  Because of this probation, the Hurricanes are unable to qualify for rankings, playoffs or championships until they have played 16 games, which Braga said should be completed by the end of the semester.

This has caused the season to be more of an introductory one for the Canes, despite the early success that their 10-0-0 record shows.

According to McLean, the team “expects to really get going next year and start playing better competition.”

Next season, the Hurricanes will be off probation and will be facing the top opponents that they are unable to schedule now.

For now, the team wants to concentrate on making others aware of their program, which is quickly on the rise.  Come time for next year’s tryouts in early September, the team hopes more people are aware of them and able to participate.

“It was just so exciting watching them advance last year,” said team advisor Rhonda DuBord about the start of the program. “I’m sure they will continue to do great things this year.”

The team’s next two games are both home at the Kendall Ice Arena (10355 Hammocks Blvd).  They will be facing the University of North Florida on Friday and Saturday.  Both games will be played at 8:30 pm and are free to the public.