Most people go to Barbados for a relaxing time on the beach. But this week the Florida Panthers went there to play hockey.
The trip marked the first NHL ice hockey clinic in the Caribbean. Last summer the Panthers hosted a ball hockey clinic on the island, which sits 2,596 kilometres southeast of Florida.
The event took place at Icetopia Skating Rink, which has an artificial ice surface that simulates skating on real ice. Panthers defenceman Alex Petrovic, who acted as an instructor for the clinic, said the ice wasn’t too much different than regular ice.
“It’s pretty cool, pretty unique,” Petrovic said according to NHL.com. “It’s a little bit different skating on [the artificial ice]. Some of the kids who come here regularly are actually really good at skating on it. It took myself a couple of minutes just kind of getting used to it.”
Shawn Thornton, who played three seasons with the Panthers and now serves as vice-president of business operations for the team, also made the trip and said he was surprised how easily the kids learned the sport considering many had never tried it before.
“The kids picked it up pretty quickly,” said Thornton. “I think it was the first time actually having a hockey stick in their hands.”
Thornton invited one of the students to come to Florida to watch a Panthers game and have a private skating lesson from one of the Panthers staff.
“This is our second year coming back [to Barbados] and we’ve had a blast,” Thornton said. “They’ve been so hospitable and we’ve have had such a good time. We’ve been treated like gold since we’ve been here and we’re trying to return the favour.”
You can see some highlights from the clinic in the video below. And who knows, maybe one day someone from the Caribbean will make it to the NHL.