New Panthers’ Owner Vincent Viola: “We’re Going to Win, Put The Word Out”

Vincent Viola (Jameson Cooper)

Vincent Viola (Jameson Cooper)

For the first time since the Panthers’ improbable 2012 trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the BB&T Center was once again the center of attention in South Florida as the team introduced Vincent Viola as the new Chairman, Principal Owner & Governor of SSE (Sunrise Sports and Entertainment), the Florida Panthers, and the Broward County-owned BB&T Center. In addition, his long-time friend and business partner Douglas Cifu will assume the role of Vice Chairman, Partner & Alternate Governor, while Michael R. Yormark has been promoted to the position of President & Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

“My family and I are honored to take the helm of the Florida Panthers organization with the No. 1 goal of putting a winning team on the ice year after year and bringing a Stanley Cup to our incredible fans here in South Florida,” Viola said in a press release issued before his introduction. “I believe strongly in family, work-ethic, loyalty, relentless effort and a positive attitude and we hope to build an organization based on those principles.”

A Brooklyn native, Viola currently sits as Chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial and is one of the nation’s foremost leaders in electronic trading. He began his career in the financial services industry on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange and rose to be Vice Chairman (1993-1996) and Chairman (2001-2004).   Adding to his already impressive business resume, Viola is also the founder and largest stockholder in Independent Bank Group, Inc (Nasdaq: IBTX), a community banking chain headquartered in McKinney, Texas that he founded in 1989. In 2009, he was inducted in to the Futures Industry Association Hall of Fame.

Having already conquered the business world, Viola’s lifelong dream of owning a sports team received new life after the idea of purchasing the Panthers was brought to his attention during a lunch with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Once the idea was out in the open, both Viola and Cifu were dead set on acquiring the South Florida franchise.

“We were very committed to get it done before the season started,” Viola said. “We were just relentless in our effort and we made it hard for the commissioner to say no.”

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NHL Announces Outdoor Game in Miami (Humor)

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)

(Editors Note: This piece is meant to be taken as satire. All facts, quotes, and reports are fabricated. Enjoy!)

Earlier this year, the NHL announced that it would be adding five more outdoor games next season to accompany the already immensely popular Winter Classic. While games in New York and Chicago were welcome with open arms, the announcement that a game would be held in the warm climate of Los Angeles was met with some skepticism. Well, the skeptics are going to need to get their sunscreen ready as the NHL announced today that the league will also be adding one more outdoor game in the tropical hockey capital of the world – Miami, Florida.

But, before I discuss the details behind this exciting announcement, let me first take you back to where this all began.

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The Hill I’ve Died On.

Hockey related revenue. Make whole.  Decertification.  Disclaimer of interest.  Meet in secret places. Common ground. Mediation. Words and terms that we are all becoming very familiar with instead of upper or lower body injury, forechecking, skates like the wind, shootout, and he’s a monster (for you Pierre McGuire fanatics).

The roller coaster of my emotions have been well documented recently either here on this site, Twitter, or our Facebook fan page.  The talks between the NHL and the NHLPA that occured last week have finally sent me to a place where I said I could never imagine going.  I have now reached the point of no return.  That place is on a hill.  Not really, but I wanted to get some mileage out of that, and figured my soapbox is a way to do it.  I’ve accepted the fact that we likely won’t have hockey this season.  I’ve accepted the fact that this battle of millionaires versus billionaires is going no place fast.  I’ve accepted the fact that no matter what I say, how much I miss it, how much I want it back, it doesn’t matter.   To anyone.

We’ve heard all the rhetoric. “We” are close to a deal”.  That there’s no way it can’t be settled if we can just agree on a few things.  Blah, blah, blah.  Face it.  I’m not 17, nor am I 25 or 30.  I’m a bit older, and a bit wiser (at least I say I am), and am no longer going to act like this is the only thing that I live for.  Because for the past 80 plus days, of which should have been filled with hockey, I have survived.  I’m not dead, suicidal, or having convulsions because there’s no NHL hockey.

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One Step Up, Two Steps Back

After two days of what appeared to be heightened optimism that included pizza being brought into the meetings by Steve Fehr, many felt that the NHL lockout was finally coming to an end.  However faster than a Patrick Sharp one timer, the tailspin that developed on Thursday changed all that.  Possibly for a very long time.  The glow, the optimism, and the hope that games would begin as early as Christmas day were all shot down yesterday evening.  By voicemail.  Hah! Modern technology.  What a glorious world we live in where we can avoid confrontation by leaving a voicemail with a decision.  Although it’s 2012, the memo could also have been delivered via text message.

This relationship between the NHL and the NHLPA is getting more sour by the minute, and it seems as though the two sides are behaving like immature high schoolers.  Yesterday’s response which came from Bill Daly stated that the PA’s offer was unacceptable, could have, and should have been delivered in person.  The situation, which is partly laughable, and partly embarrassing, reminds me of when I was a 20 year goofball and I broke up with my girlfriend over the phone! For some reason I thought that it would be easier doing it that way than face to face.  I was wrong for taking the path of least resistance, and after the fact I knew it.  But I was a kid who really didn’t know better.  In the current situation we’re talking about adults.  Professionals who have a signifcant amount of experience in negotiations. 

While both sides still share blame in this, Michael Grange referred to Gary Bettman yesterday as the “bad boyfriend” of the NHLPA.  Snicker.  Bettman however is not the only villan here, as it was noted that NHLPA rep Donald Fehr had made remarks that “we’re close to a deal”, which apparently they weren’t.  And told his players to” hold out for more”.  This has turned into a mess of epic proportions and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if more games are cancelled today (by the time this story posts they may already have). [Read more...]

I Need My Hockey Fix(ed).

I need my hockey fix(ed). Source: Frank Rekas

The last lockout ended up costing the entire season,  and when it was ultimately settled, many held positive hope that the two sides would never behave so ridiculously and let it happen again.  Yet here we are less than 10 years later facing the same potential “nightmare” once more.  With the announcement this past Thursday that the entire month of games for November were going to be cancelled, many began to think that the balance of the season is in jeopardy as well.  We’ll likely hear sometime this week that both the Winter Classic and the All-Star game won’t be played either. Two main events that besides the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which allow the NHL to showcase this great game.

When I look back at how I felt about the last lockout, I can honestly say that I was on the players side all the way.  While I didn’t object to the imposed salary cap, which I still feel is needed, I felt that the players gave up more than they had bargained for not only in lost salary for the year, but in the roll back of salary as well.  However it was for the better of the game, and appeared to be worth it at the time. The last lockout also saw many older players retire, or return as a mere shadow of themselves.  Jeremy Roenick was just one of those players who was not quite the same upon his return, and admitted how much the time off hurt him, and other players like him.  We face that same dilemma under the current stalemate with players like Ray Whitney, Daniel Alfredsson, Teemu Selanne, and even Martin Brodeur.  The longer this goes, the greater the chance is that we may have seen the last of some of the NHL’s great players.  Or even worse, a player will return only to suffer an injury which will be too much for him to recover from, and cause him to retire.  Not the way that he’ll want to finish his career.

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NHL Losses More Games. Are Fans Next?

The past 48 hours have been a bit of a blur to me.  Being on a business trip in New York, I had to pick my spots on Thursday and Friday to find out what the status of the current labor negotiations were, and like many of you I have been sadly dissappointed in the outcome.  As we know, the NHL’s offer earlier in the week led us to believe that an end to the lockout was imminent….well ok, coming soon.  The more you read and paid attention on Twitter however, you began to devleop the feeling that your excitement was premature.  Based on how Thursday’s meetings went, they were.

Most people felt that the NHL put the onus on the players with their offer and that all the players had to do was take it and we would be done.  Not so fast Hoss!  Donald Fehr, who many think is a master at negotiating, put together a strategy that he felt would counter the Bettmans, feeling that one of the three proposals would be accepted.  Problem is none of them were.  Matter of fact it happened in less than 15 minutes.  Taking sides in this ordeal has become an issue for many, as each side had employed it’s own method of negotiating.  I referred to Fehr’s style up till Thursday as “rope a dope”, as he sat back and waited.  I called the league’s method as “taking a hard stance”, and that they had finally realized they needed to come to the table with something better.

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NHL Saves Face With Its Latest Offer

All of a sudden, hockey fans have something to hope for.  On Tuesday, the NHL put forth an official offer to possible end the lockout, and this time, surprising to most, it doesn’t appear to be that bad.

I’ve written before that the NHL has been losing big in the public relations battle with their sworn enemy business partner, the NHLPA.  Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and especially the owners were coming off as money-grabbers who would rather make money than play a season of hockey, whether those perceived characteristics were deserved or not.  However, the latest offer from Bettman’s side of the table appears to have changed public perception.

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Has Hockey Learned Anything From This Lockout?

One has to wonder who gets the credit for ending the lockout should it be settled.  Is it Gary Bettman, who in the eyes of many may have blinked first, or will it be Donald Fehr who played a “rope a dope” style of negotiating to get the league to come back wtih something that may have been there all along?  Also, let’s not forget the public reaction as this new deal was put on the table Tuesday which appeared very short of jubilation across many parts.  My cell phone was lighting up like a christmas tree all afternoon as many of us hoped that the end was near.  Or at least close.

Was it pressure from the owners, some of who may not have been 100% behind Bettman and Daly’s hard stance?  Was there pressure from NBC who invested a gazzilion dollars to showcase the most exciting game on the planet?  Or did the league realize that their intial deal was embarrasing, and took this an opportunity to redeem itself, and now put all the pressure squarely on the players union?

The proposal while handsomely better than where the two sides stood before, isn’t exactly a pot of gold for the players, but in the eyes of many, they would be scorned forever if this offer isn’t accepted.  While a 50/50 revenue split seems fair, for the players there’s still a gap of about $200 million, but hey what’s a few dollars amongst friends.  The deal also puts a cap of five years on player contracts, entry level deals are shortened by two years, free agency eligibility is at 28 years old, or eight years of service, and arbitration rights stand pat.  Seems like an offer that can’t be refused right?  I would suppose that after losing their first paycheck some players may feel that way, and in the spirit of this whole fiasco, by resolving the lockout by October 25th, the season can begin on November 2nd.  In full.  No one loses pay, all 82 games are played, we get the Winter Classic, HBO 24/7, and the Florida Panthers are able to defend their first ever division title without an asterisk.  Just like the Los Angeles Kings get to defend their Stanley Cup Championship in the same way.  But is that really the thing to do?  For the union to accept this offer regardless of countering isn’t smart by any means, and how could this be done without some sort of vote from the players themselves?

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Gary Bettman’s Transcript With The Media Following Today’s Proposal

As we all know, the NHL made a proposal to the players association Tuesday which appears to be a very positive step in the right direction in getting the lockout settled.  There are number of items that still must be worked out, but the expectations are that both sides will begin talking, and everyone is hoping a settlement is reached soon.

The largest part of the offer by the league is the concession to have the revenue sharing split 50/50.  This has been the main point of discussion that has kept the two sides apart.  There are other issues that need to be ironed out, but for the first time in a few weeks, there is an air of positivity that the lockout could be ending soon.  After the jump is the transcript of Gary Bettman’s media discussion after the Tuesday’s meeting [Read more...]

Take Panther Parkway’s Poll On The NHL’s Offer To The Players

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