Florida Panthers honor late Jose Fernandez before season opener (Photo)

Florida Panthers / Twitter

The Florida Panthers honored Jose Fernandez before their home opener on Thursday against the New Jersey by wearing jerseys with the late Miami Marlins pitcher’s last name and No. 16.

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Panthers players also wore a No. 16 decal on their helmets and signed a jersey that will be given to Fernandez’s family.

The 24-year-old Fernandez died last month in a boat crash off of Miami Beach.

Fernandez visited the Panthers and dropped a ceremonial puck before their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins last February. After last NHL season, the Marlins pitcher invited a number of Florida players to partake in batting practice.

Aaron Ekblad / Instagram

“When Jose came to visit us, there was a natural connection,” Panthers CEO Matt Caldwell told George Richards of the Miami Herald. “He’s such a great guy, he made everyone feel important. Our guys were extremely upset when they heard the news. They all wanted to do something.”

Team owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu also announced that Fernandez’s foundation – the JDF 16 Foundation – will be the first recipient of the Florida Panthers Foundation Community Champions Grant Program and receive a $35,000 donation.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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