You always hear players, when asked about an opponent, say something like, “we can’t worry about them. We have to worry about ourselves.”
The Florida Panthers are feeling that to the ninth degree right now, considering the upheaval they faced last weekend.
When head coach Gerard Gallant was fired following the Panthers’ loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night, it was a surprise to many. General manager Tom Rowe will serve as interim head coach, beginning tonight when the Panthers face the Blackhawks. Panthers players, speaking for the first time about it on Tuesday morning, said they’ll move forward.
“You have to take in stride, obviously, but we have to come together as a group and play well on the ice,” Keith Yandle said. “All of us liking [Gallant] as much as we did, it’s tough to see a guy go. It’s tough to see anyone go. But we know Tom’s going to come in and help us out and lead us to lots of victories.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Rowe said he talked with the Panthers’ leadership group on Monday and had “a real good meeting” with the team on Tuesday. He wouldn’t talk about what was said in either meeting but said he was transparent with the Panthers.
“When you have professional athletes, if you don’t give them an explanation on why certain things happen it just shows a sign of ignorance,” Rowe said. “This is a tremendous locker room with really good people. They’re all good family guys and that’s how you have to operate. If you think you’re not going to communicate then you’re not going to last very long in this business. You won’t have success.”
Photos surfaced late Sunday night of Gallant waiting for a taxi outside of PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., following his dismissal. Rowe said those images are misleading.
“I know how it looked; didn’t look great. That was not how it went down,” Rowe said. “We’d been talking for 30-35 minutes, I actually ordered a car service to pick him up. It was bad how it all happened; it didn’t look good. But I’ll tell you right now we respect him, like him and Gerard and I had a good relationship. Did we agree on everything? No. Nobody ever agrees on everything. But we had good, honest discussions.”