Stoneman Douglas hockey team rides Panthers plane to national championship

(WSVN) - The Marjory Stoneman Douglas hockey team flew in style to the national championship tournament in Minnesota, courtesy of the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers decided to donate one of their team planes after the Stoneman Douglas Eagles qualified for nationals by winning the state championship on Feb. 25 — just 11 days after the deadly shooting at their school.

“Jaw dropped,” said Stoneman Douglas hockey player Matthew Hauptman. “I was sitting at a table with a couple of the boys, and we all just like went crazy. I probably slammed my knee on the wall a couple times, but it was just… It was awesome.”

“We got full catering. They’re getting the full experience that our team would get when flying on a road trip,” said Shawn Thornton, Vice President of Business Operations for the Panthers. “So I was just talking to a few kids. They’re very excited.”

At each seat, there was a written message from Panthers owner Vinnie Viola.

“We’re very proud of the team, how resilient they’ve been, how strong they’ve been,” said Thornton. “They’re a great bunch of kids that we’ve come to know over the last few weeks.”

“It’s definitely bringing back more positivity,” said Hauptman, “and then slowly we’re bringing back more and more positivity back to our community, which is helping.”

The Panthers have also hosted the Eagles at a game and even had the Stanley Cup trophy shipped in for them.

“I always thought of the players. They never even knew who I was, and now we’re on a first name basis with some of these players,” said Hauptman. “It’s just amazing to me. It’s like a dream come true.”

The Eagles open against a team from Colorado Thursday, at 4 p.m.

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