Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Panthers schedule and Pucks

First things first, Carolina Panthers schedule was released at 7pm Tuesday night, and here's how it looks:

Sun. Sept. 9 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium 4:15 p.m. FOX
Sun. Sept. 16 vs. New Orleans Saints Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. FOX
Thu. Sept. 20 vs. New York Giants Bank of America Stadium 8:20 p.m. NFLN
Sun. Sept. 30 at Atlanta Falcons Georgia Dome 1:00 p.m. FOX
Sun. Oct. 7 vs. Seattle Seahawks Bank of America Stadium 4:05 p.m. FOX
Sun. Oct. 14 Bye
Sun. Oct. 21 vs. Dallas Cowboys Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. FOX
Sun. Oct. 28 at Chicago Bears Soldier Field 1:00 p.m. FOX
Sun. Nov. 4 at Washington Redskins FedEx Field 1:00 p.m. FOX
Sun. Nov. 11 vs. Denver Broncos Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. CBS
Sun. Nov. 18 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. * FOX
Mon. Nov. 26 at Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Dec. 2 at Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 p.m. * FOX
Sun. Dec. 9 vs. Atlanta Falcons Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. * FOX
Sun. Dec. 16 at San Diego Chargers Qualcomm Stadium 4:05 p.m. * FOX
Sun. Dec. 23 vs. Oakland Raiders Bank of America Stadium 1:00 p.m. * CBS
Sun. Dec. 30 at New Orleans Saints Mercedes-Benz Superdome 1:00 p.m. * FOX
* - Subject to flexible scheduling.

Two national TV games, one at home, one on the road. And those only the guaranteed ones. A hot start would make Carolina eligible for the flex scheduling in the back end of the campaign. Two divisional games highlight the final month of the season, which means the Panthers will have to make hay early on in the NFC South. Also of note, the 4:15 start times while on the east coast, one against Tampa on Sept. 9, and one at home against Seattle (of course that is for the west coast audience benefit).

Next, the Stanley Cup playoffs have been riveting, and making headlines, but not for the hockey. The headlines are being made for the after-the-whistle stuff. Read, the fights.

Folks, I'm here to tell you, this is the round that this sort of thing takes place. It will happen like this every year. This year, it is amped up because there is a rivalry series in Pittsburgh v. Philadelphia, and there are a couple of teams trying to assert themselves against members of the NHL's Original Six (Nashville v. Detroit, and Ottawa v. NY Rangers).

Winning a championship isn't supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be difficult, and in hockey, a game where emotions are on the razor's edge every second of the game, it is going to boil over. Having been on both sides of the on-ice equation, as both a player and referee, I get it. I understand what it means to be playing in those games, and understand what it means to be officiating those kinds of games (not at the NHL level, but to hockey players, the stage doesn't matter).

For those folks complaining about it, I offer you this: give it a week. The rough stuff will go away, as teams are a step closer to winning a title. Fighting becomes more of a hindrance than a help for teams chasing the ultimate prize. It will stop.

For me, I'll watch whether they duke it out, or skate it out. It's just hard for me to sit and listen to people who have NEVER played that game (or any other in some cases), constantly trash it. If only they could experience the joys of teamwork, and camaraderie. What it is like to know the player next to you on the bench is with you, working for the common goal. Sometimes, especially in hockey, it gets rough and it gets messy. It's just part of the gig.

Mike Solarte

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