Not much rattles Washington Capitals veteran Brendan Witt, a rugged defenseman who has racked up more than 900 penalty minutes and spends his spare time surfing and spear fishing.
But Witt conceded being "concerned" Monday morning as he and wife, Salima, and their two young daughters huddled downstairs in their South Florida house.
Outside, Hurricane Wilma unleashed her fury. One hundred-mph wind gusts whipped against the windows. Trees snapped like twigs. Shingles peeled off the roof.
"It was loud, man," Witt said. "I don't even know how to describe it. I mean, the windows bowed. You have to be in one to fully understand."
All things considered, the Witts were lucky, he said. Their house, located in Jupiter and situated just a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean, suffered only minor damage. A tree is wedged up against an outside wall and the fence was obliterated. There's still no electricity, but a small generator Witt purchased prior to the last hurricane powers two lamps, a portable refrigerator and a TV.
"It's mostly landscape damage," Witt said. "Nothing major. But a cabana down the street lost its roof. It landed up against a neighbor's garage. I'm glad I went home."
Witt returned to the Capitals for Thursday's practice at St. Pete Times Forum following a three-day excused absence. He missed two practices and Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Rochester, N.Y.
"We were well prepared after going through two hurricanes before Wilma," Witt said. "Most people are supposed to have 72 hours of supplies. But from what I saw in the paper today and at the airport, not everyone was well prepared. I don't think it's right to blame everything on FEMA. Everyone had enough time to prepare."
Witt, a 30-year-old native of Saskatchewan, moved his family to Florida in June 2004, in part because it's a prime place to surf and fish. Wilma was the third hurricane to threaten the Witts's home in 16 months.
Wilma, however, was unexpectedly severe.
"It didn't lose any momentum as it came across the state like everyone had predicted," Witt said. "It hit Naples around 6:30 Monday, and by 7 we were getting tropical [force] winds. By 9, we were getting 130 mile per hourwinds. It was almost a category 3."
"The eye came right over my house," he added. "I had about 21/2 hours of calmness to go clean up around the house and move debris away. But you could see the back half, the strongest part, on the horizon."
Thursday, Witt woke up at 4 a.m. and spent the next three hours waiting in line at the local gas station to fill up his wife's sport-utility vehicle. A few hours later, he flew from Palm Beach International Airport to Tampa.
"I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of," Witt said. "It could be awhile before we'll get power back."
Witt's teammates and coaches were relieved to see him. He's a popular personality in the locker room, a powerful presence on the ice and has arguably been the team's best defenseman.
"Aside from hockey, we're happy to hear his family is fine, and that his house is still standing," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "And he's in good spirits. Sounded like he was well prepared."
Still, Hanlon can't understand why anyone would want to live in South Florida.
"It must be nice, to go through three hurricanes and still want to live down there," Hanlon said. "It must be lovely. What are the odds of going through three hurricanes? But what do I know? I'm from Manitoba. Up there, we battle mosquitoes, not hurricanes."
Witt said he's not moving, hasn't even considered it.
"Where would we go?" Witt said. "You can have a catastrophe anywhere. In California you have mud slides, earthquakes and wildfires. We're not leaving. I'm staying right there. It's paradise."