Bill Ruggiero makes a save on Radek Dvorak. (via Florida Panthers/NHL)
Florida’s ‘Goal of a Lifetime’ contest, which sought to land the Panthers a practice goaltender, ended in a tie Tuesday evening. Now, both Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith will get to live out their NHL dream by skating alongside the Panthers.
The Florida Panthers “Goal of a Lifetime” contest was supposed to land them an extra practice goalie for March 18. Instead, it landed them two.
After stopping Florida Panthers alumni Radek Dvorak and Marco Sturm three times each, Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith have both landed spots to skate with the Panthers in practice. The competition, which began Monday and ended during a first intermission shootout Tuesday, crowned two winners after the shootout ended in a tie.
A big first round – one in which he stopped both Dvorak and Sturm – put Ruggiero ahead early, but the second round was Smith’s time to shine as he brought the score back even with a pair of stops. You can check out the full competition here:
"You know what, it's great," Ruggiero told Fox Sport Florida’s Jameson Olive. "We were both kind of confused for about five minutes. We didn't really know what was going on, but if you really think about it, it's better for the organization to have two guys that could potentially practice if they need. It's better for us."
And it’s funny, too, how things work out. The competition itself came to life after the March 3 debacle that saw Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, both of Florida’s regular goaltenders, forced to leave game with injury, leaving goaltending coach Robb Tallas to suit up and play backup once Luongo could finally return to the game.
Now, after having no goaltenders, the Panthers likely have one in Ruggiero, a Melbourne, Fla., native. If Florida needs him to suit up, he’s only a two and a half hour drive away.
As for Smith, who hails from Nashville, Tenn., he’s just enjoying the ride.
"It was so much fun, being on the ice and being able to try out," Smith told Olive. "Obviously exhausting, they put us through the ringer. Today, during the shootout, [there was] so much energy — huge crowd. It was over pretty quick, but a lot of fun and obviously a great experience came out of it."
Now all that’s left is stopping some pucks in practice.