Paul Laus patrolled the Florida Panthers’ blue line from 1993-2002. He was tough, rugged, and knew his role on the team. He could hit. He would fight. He defended the stars on his team. He was one of those players that flew under the radar, not known for immense scoring feats or spectacular plays. But he was a player that every team would want.
In this week’s Icing Line, I had the pleasure and privilege to catch up with Mr. Laus and get some insights on his career in Miami. Mr. Laus was part of the 1996 Florida Panthers team that upset Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh en route to the Stanley Cup finals, where they were swept by a determined Colorado Avalanche squad. In 1996-97, Mr. Laus recorded an astounding 39 fighting majors to supplement 313 penalty minutes. It was also during this season that he recorded his best season offensively, notching twelve assists. Not known for his scoring prowess, Mr. Laus would record fourteen goals and seventy-two points in his NHL career.
Paul Laus was drafted 37th overall in the 1989 NHL entry draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately for the physical defenseman, the Penguins were overloaded with talented blueliners as they won two straight Stanley Cups. He was claimed in the 1993 expansion draft by the Florida Panthers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mr. Laus suffered a career-ending wrist injury in 2002, closing the door on a career that saw him become a fan favorite in Florida.
Mr. Laus’ time for this interview is greatly appreciated.
Justin–When you were drafted by the Penguins in 1989, did you think it would take as long as it did for you to get your break?
Paul–I had no idea how long it would take, my three years with the Penguins they won two Stanley Cups. So expansion was a good thing for my career.
Justin–You were selected in the 1993 expansion draft by the Florida Panthers. Did you see them being such a long term stay for you?
Paul–At first I had no idea Florida even had a team, I got a call from my agent while I was in Las Vegas getting married. At the time I was open for a fresh start.
Justin–There has been a lot said about the Panthers and their feasibility in south Florida. Having played there, what kind of hockey town is Miami?
Paul–The fans in Florida are very passionate about their team, I got to know many of them on a personal level.
Justin–Describe the run to the Finals in 1996. It’s only the franchise’s third year…what was the city like?
Paul–Very hockey crazy at the time. We were on every radio, TV, newspaper, as opening headlines.
Justin–Who was the most skilled forward you had to face in your career?
Paul–Pavel Bure very easily. In practice I would tell a younger guy to go against him when it was my turn just so I didn’t have to face him.
Justin–Most saw your role as just an enforcer, yet Panther fans still see you as part of the heart and soul of the team when you played. What does that mean to you, knowing you’re a fan favorite?
Paul–What I think people saw in me was not the best or fastest skater, stick handler, shooter, but what I did do was give everything I had every shift every night, and stood up for my teammates.
Justin–What do you see as the biggest difference between the game you played, and today’s game?
Paul–The speed and size of the players now. I thought I was above average in height and weight when I played, now I think I would be below average.
Justin–Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
Paul–A few, but it’s hard when people move and change numbers.
Justin–Are you still involved in hockey?
Paul–I coached my son’s hockey team for a few years, but rather watch him play from the stands now. As for getting back into it I may when my kids get older.
Justin–What else keeps you busy in your retirement?
Paul–Work at our family business and enjoy being with my wife and three kids.