Florida Panthers, NHL alumni play charity game ahead of All-Star Game

Peter Worrell had to dig back into his memory bank to recall the last time he recorded a hat trick.

For those curious: It was on Jan. 27, 1998, with the Beast of New Haven of the American Hockey League — a little less than three months shy of his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers.

That changed Wednesday, when the 45-year-old known more for his knack as an enforcer than a goal scorer put the puck in the back of the net three times as part of the Panthers alumni vs NHL alumni game at the Ice Den in Coral Springs as part of the lead up to the 2023 NHL All-Star Game that will take place at Sunrise’s FLA Live Arena on Saturday.

When Worrell scored his third goal early in the second period, players on the Panthers alumni bench threw their helmets on the ice in celebration while those on the ice mobbed the 6-7 forward who spent the first six of his seven seasons in the NHL with the Panthers.

“This [hat trick] was a little bit different,” Worrell said, “but just as fun.”

The alumni game featured 30 former NHL players, with the NHL alumni team beating the Panthers alumni team 15-11 in a game that featured two 30-minute periods and a running clock.

The 15-player Panthers alumni team included two players from the 1995-96 team that went to the Stanley Cup finals (Bill Lindsey and Ray Sheppard), a pair of players who recently retired in Keith Yandle and Brian Boyle, and, of course, Hall of Fame goaltender Roberto Luongo, who played center and scored the final goal of the game.

For a couple hours, different generations of Panthers shared a dressing room and a sheet of ice as they played the game they devoted years of their lives to.

“The best part,” Luongo said, “was just hanging out beforehand in the locker room and talking about things that happened over the course of our careers out there.”

Yandle added: “It was worth the price of admission. Just to come back here and play in this game, come in the locker room and hang out with the guys, you miss it. You miss being in the locker room, miss being around the guys, the smells, the sounds. It was a fun day.”

All proceeds from the event benefit the Florida Panthers Foundation. According to the team, the alumni game raised $50,000.

“It’s great and I think it’s going to be even bigger,” Yandle said. “When you see things like this, I think there’s an opportunity down here for the alumni to come together. There are a lot of guys who live down here to be involved. They see the support that we got from the fans. It was a great night. Hopefully the first of many.”