Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Knight hasn't been forgotten by the Florida Panthers or their fans

SUNRISE, Florida – During Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final fans, rightfully, serenaded Sergei Bobrovski throughout a 3-0 Florida Panthers victory. 

Whether prompted by the video board or organically, chants of “Bob-by, Bob-by” rained down as Bobrovski authored a Stanley Cup Final masterpiece with a 32-save shutout. 

But before the game started, during the national anthem, Panthers fans paid homage to the other goalie, the one that is still expected to someday take over for Bobrovski in the Panthers’ crease. 

And the rockets’ red glare

The bombs bursting in air

Gave proof through the… KNIGHT!

That our flag was still there

It’s something Panthers fans have done now for three seasons for Spencer Knight, and despite him not playing an NHL game this season, the tradition has continued in Sunrise even if the goalie spent his entire season in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers.

A first-round pick in 2019, No. 13 overall, Knight was part of the NHL equation from the time he signed out of Boston College. He started two NHL playoff games in 2021, and played 32 NHL regular season games as a 20-year-old the following season to help Florida win the Presidents’ Trophy. 

Last season he started 21 games for Florida, serving as reliable 1B to Bobrosvki before entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program on Feb. 23, 2023. 

Knight entered the program to receive help managing obsessive-compulsive disorder. Something he opened up about before training camp back in September, telling The Hockey News, that he was spiraling in a direction he didn’t want to be going. 

Knight spent his time away from the Panthers working with an expert in the space, learning how others with OCD manage the day-to-day struggles of the disorder. The Panthers also gave him space, signing Anthony Stolarz to a one-year deal as an NHL backup, and after three seasons of yo-yoing back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL, the goalie spent one season with one team for the first time in his professional career. 

He had a 25-14-5 record with five shutouts and .905 save percentage in 45 AHL games. At the end of the season he won the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award – given annually to the AHL player who best exemplifies qualities of sportsmanship, determination, and dedication to hockey. 

Knight doesn’t often speak about his struggles, preferring to focus on letting his actions and potential NHL comeback serve as the best example for the work he’s done.

“That’s probably the best thing, honestly,” Knight said. “I think me not being so vocal about it all the time, just being able to play, I think that is what speaks for itself and I think that’s the way it should be… I think when you speak with your actions, not words, that’s how you help others more.”

Knight hasn’t had too many personal conversations with others, but he realizes his story can be used as a platform to help others.

“Just be me, I know when I was looking for help or motivation for others, I would look at what they were doing, not necessarily what they would say,” Knight said. “That being said, those times someone has reached out, I’m pretty clear I’m open to chat and help and talk about my story if they want to.”

According to NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh, Knight’s story is one of the successes of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance program and part of the overall efforts to de-stigmatize players getting help and being, well, human. 

There’s been an uptick in players using the program in recent years, and while Walsh has only been at his post for 16 months, he said he’s been happy to see mental health become more normalized for athletes. 

The Panthers have an in-house mental skills coach, Dr. Derick Anderson, on staff who serves as the team’s director of sports psychology. Panthers coach Paul Maurice said that while interacting with Anderson from time-to-time, one of the most important things is that players know that their work with Anderson is private and confidential. 

Maurice wasn’t asked directly about Knight’s story, but the veteran coach pointed out that how in close to three decades of coaching at the NHL level, it’s been a welcome sign to see mental health become something teams and players prioritize. 

“Finding somebody who works for you is really important,” Maurice said. “To have people around those guys, to help them navigate through that, it’s great.” 

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This article is about:
NHL Charlotte Checkers Florida Panthers NHL AHL Spencer Knight Paul Maurice
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