In a piece from Panthers.com, the Florida Panthers new (former) franchise goalie mused over his new/old found fame in South Florida. He said things like “I swear, every time I go out, there are people recognizing me, which I don’t remember as much when I was younger” and “I feel like I’m more popular here now than when I played here, for some reason, which is crazy.”
Well Roberto, when you consider the reason, it’s not that crazy.
South Florida has been waiting for you (well, the idea of you) for a long time.
The Panthers have been one of the NHL’s fringe teams for a while in terms of on ice play and public image but as most of us on Panther Parkway have pointed out; those days are numbered.
Jameson Cooper outlined how to improve the Panthers’ brand in a piece earlier this week, which continued with our theme of “Hockey IS the business,” the regime ownership is slowly but surely putting into place. They’re doing it by promoting players instead of cars and wins instead of restaurants. They’re doing it by putting their faith in the brand that is the Florida Panthers’ on ice product rather than what surrounds the ice. The rebuild that Dale Tallon is undertaking is playing a huge part of that rebrand, but the “new” rebuild of the franchise has been underway for months and will continue to evolve as the year progresses. In terms of the rebrand, the acquisition of Roberto Luongo officially kicked it into relevancy.
For years, Luongo has been widely recognized as one of the league’s elite netminders. He boasts a career .919 save percentage and a 2.51 Goals against average. He has 373 career wins and only has one season with fewer than 30 wins since 2004. Despite his age, his reflexes are still sharp, positioning is sound and his passion for the game is as high as it ever was.
When it comes to the on-ice product, the Panthers and their fans shouldn’t be worried about what Luongo brings to the table. But the “Luongo Effect” that I am alluding to doesn’t refer to what he’s capable of doing between the pipes.
As Tallon said: “This is the beginning of something special for this Florida Panthers organization, having Roberto back in the fold and back here in Florida where he belongs.”
Operating under the “Hockey IS business” model, Tallon knows that Luongo is the perfect amalgamation of those terms. Luongo is charismatic, fan-friendly and known league-wide. He’s active on social media, makes TV appearances and is known for his quick wit with the press.
You have to think that Dale had all this in mind when he brought Luongo back to the Panthers. The Panthers as a franchise desperately needed a poster boy who the rest of the league can identify and gravitate to.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Tallon wants that gravitation towards the Panthers.
Tallon has said that he wants to win, that he can win and that he will win. He’s well on his way to building a winner and bringing in a high-profile talented player with league wide fame is only going to help his cause.
In concordance with his push to the top, Tallon has said that he has the resources to spend and that he will do just that to put a competitive winning team on the ice.
How does Luongo fit into that plan? “I’m hoping that it does show other free agents that it is a serious organization and the ownership is definitely committed to winning.” Luongo said. “When you know that the ownership is committed to winning it really does tend to attract players that want to come play. This is a great place to live.”
For too long the Panthers have been without a top-tier ambassador. Money talks, winning talks louder and the combination of the two is exactly what Tallon (and subsequently Luongo) is offering to future Free Agents.
So add another feather to Tallon’s cap because he’s doing everything right when it comes to building a winner.
Hockey IS business. The owners get that, Tallon gets that, and the acquisition of Luongo proves that they’re putting it into place.