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The Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils face off the for the climactic game of their first-round playoff series at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Thursday night.
Two days after Panthers President Michael Yormark got into a playoffs-intensity Twitter dispute with Devils fan Lauren Rubino, Yormark and the team are flying the New Jersey hockey fan and her father to South Florida for Game 7.
Rubino “and her father are sitting in the suite with Michael and some of our other executives and partners tonight,” Panthers spokesman Matt Sacco said Thursday afternoon, as the JetBlue flight carrying Rubino and her father was about to take off.
“There was really only two exchanges, and I think that Michael saw some of the things that had been written and said about the situation,” and wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings and that she knew “that it was all in good fun,” Sacco said.
When Yormark reached out to Rubino, the two passionate hockey fans were talking and he “impromptu asked her to fly down to watch the game with him. It was kind of out of the blue a little bit, but I think it’s kind of nice how everything turned out,” Sacco said.
Yormark announced Monday that the team would no longer sell plastic rats at home games at the BankAtlantic Center and blamed Devils fans he said were trying to make mischief for the move. Rubino, whose Twitter handle is @LaurenAshley07, used a choice to word to say that he was embarrassing himself and the Panthers organization, and he responded “you have 70 followers. No one cares what you think.”
Now she has 4,481 followers – about 1,000 more than Yormark.
“They both expressed regret that it had gotten to that point, but it was a really friendly conversation,” Sacco said. “I think it got really blown out of proportion, and they spent a lot of time laughing about it.”
The Panthers are putting up Rubino and her father in a hotel Thursday night, then flying them back in the morning, he said.
“Should I have responded the way I did? Maybe not. But I was just being sarcastic,” Yormark said on the Kup & Goldie Show on 560 WQAM Thursday.
He also said that when they spoke on the phone Thursday morning, she apologized to him for the language that she used.
Rubino said in an email to NBC 6 on Wednesday that she was “surprised this story blew up the way it did.”
“I think the support from Devils' fans is a testament to how passionate we are. I'm not denying that I did not deserve a retort from Mr. Yormark,” she said. “I stand by my comments as I still believe blaming Devils fans for the rat situation is ridiculous.”
She said she is focused on finishing her graduate program in the next three weeks.
But Thursday night she’ll be at the arena in Sunrise – after, as she wrote on Twitter, "@PanthersYormark graciously invited my dad and me to Florida to watch the game with him tonight in his suite.”