Ex-Hawks adjusting well to life in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Former Chicago Blackhawks players are adjusting to life in South Florida and under the guidance of former Hawks general manager Dale Tallon and new coach Kevin Dineen they think a turnaround for the Panthers’ franchise is on the horizon.

Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky are the official leaders of the team, each wearing an “A” on their jersey. The Panthers don’t have a captain.

“I think we are going in the right direction,” Campbell said. “[Tallon] brought in a lot of quality guys. The locker room is a lot of fun just like it was in Chicago with him [in charge]. You’re not walking on eggshells around here. It's go play hockey and work hard. I think that’s what he expects, and have a lot fun. I think that’s the best thing about Dale. You can say what you want to say and express your opinion. You’re not walking around intimidated by anybody or scared to go out there and do anything. It's just a fun atmosphere.”

Dineen was helped by talking to one of his best friends, Quenneville, about the new additions to his team. Campbell and Kopecky are joined by Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille as former Hawks turned Panthers.

“To kind of get what makes them tick as a player, [Quenneville] was highly complimentary of all four players, and he also disclosed a few things that were certainly helpful for me,” Dineen said. “I think it adds character to our team. That’s what we want as part of our makeup, knowing what it takes to win. And not only do they know that personally they’re more than willing to share that with teammates and be example setters.”

Versteeg sees similarities with the Hawks: The fans need to be convinced just like they needed to be five years ago in Chicago.

“We’re trying to get the fans back in our corner because they haven’t given them anything there for a long time,” Versteeg said. “It's about giving these people something to cheer about it.”

If the Panthers are going to turn it around then the former Hawks will undoubtedly lead the way both on and off the ice. Campbell has 11 assists in 12 games and is fourth in ice-time in the league, averaging 27:23 per game.

“He’s logging a heck of a lot of ice time,” Dineen said. “He’s not a huge guy. He really relishes the more ice time he gets. His offensive creativity has been a real boon for us and has helped us win a lot of hockey games. Brian Campbell has been off to a good start.”

As for Dineen’s friendship with Quenneville, other than the two nights they play each other it's easy to root for his pal.

“It's nice having a buddy in the other conference where you can sincerely cheer for him,” Dineen said. “And I think that’s a mutual feeling, that we both enjoy each other’s careers and hopefully success.”

The other major difference between Chicago and Florida, obviously, is the weather. There were no complaints from any of the ex-Hawks. Especially with winter looming.

“It's peaceful,” Versteeg said. “I live on a golf course. [I] look outside and it's sunny and palm trees. I absolutely love it.”