On opening night of the NHL season, the Florida Panthers took a break from the traditional first game pageantry to honor Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. The 24-year-old died in a boating accident on Sept. 25.
During pregame warmups, the entire Panthers team wore No. 16 “Fernandez” jerseys.
Florida also wore a special helmet sticker in the pentagonal shape of home plate with the No. 16 encased in the Panthers’ red and blue colors.
And the team donated $35,000 to the JDF16 Foundation named in Fernandez’s honor, presenting Fernandez’ Marlins teammates Dee Gordon and Adam Conley with a check before the game.
In his brief time in the majors, Fernandez made a big impact. His effervescent smile and enthusiasm endured him to not only the baseball community, but the local community.
Southern Florida adopted Fernandez as its native son after he defected from Cuba and settled in Tampa in 2008. He played baseball at Alonso High before being drafted by the Miami Marlins in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft.
His fast ascension to the majors, where he won Rookie of the Year in 2013, was followed by injury struggles. He tore his ulnar collateral ligament in May 2014 and had Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2014 season and the first half of the 2015 season. But through the trials and tribulations, the Cuban American endeared himself to the Miami community with his infectious energy and positive attitude.
The NBA’s Miami Heat also honored Fernandez. The team took to the court in warm-up shirts that had the No. 16 and Fernandez’s initials before their preseason game on Tuesday.