Florida owners pen open letter to the fans

Over the past several years (actually, since they’ve become a franchise), rumors have spread throughout the hockey community about the possibility of the Florida Panthers relocating to Toronto, Las Vegas, Quebec, Seattle, Puerto Rico –okay, so not Puerto Rico, but you might as well add them into the mix – and every other province of Canada or state in the U.S.

Owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu are here to set the record straight. This afternoon, they sent out a letter to Panthers fans:

“As we close in on the one-year anniversary of our ownership of the Florida Panthers, we want to reiterate our commitment to Broward County, South Florida and our Panthers fans and business partners. As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida. Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.

We made a commitment to the Panthers and to South Florida when we bought the team to build a successful organization on and off the ice. We have been working hard to live up to that commitment. Starting with the trade to bring Roberto Luongo, one of the world’s top goaltenders, back home to South Florida, and continuing with our committing over $80 million to new players, including bringing six talented veteran free agents to South Florida and resigning all of our restricted free agents, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the team. Off the ice, we continue to expand our community outreach initiatives and look forward to continue to contribute to the quality of life for residents.

It is no secret that the Panthers and BB&T Center have lost tremendous amounts of money over the last dozen years. We are working hard to address this situation, which we believe we can do with the support from our loyal fans, our business partners, the business community and our community-at-large.

We look forward to a winning season and bringing a Stanley Cup to South Florida.

With Warm Regards,

Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, Co-Owners”.


Look everyone, we know you find struggles of other franchises to be a real comedy show, but there are people who have jobs within this franchise, write for this franchise, or have paid big money to finally watch this team put a winning product on the ice. For the first time, in a long time, the Panthers could put together that winning product with franchise players such as Roberto Luongo, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, and Brandon Pirri.

Stick around and watch. We’ll be here all year, and then some.


How can the Panthers fill their rink?

With single game tickets going on sale early Friday morning, I spurred a debate on the Twitter by suggesting that ticket sales would be on the rise for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Aside from the usual scoffs at the notion that the Panthers can get people in the building, there were some good points made about the slow but sure culture change that is going on in Pantherland.

It is no secret that I have professed my belief in the “Hockey is the business” model for the Panthers and from what I have seen, the ownership and front office seem to agree. The Panthers have spent big on free agent day and are poised to ice a line-up that they believe to be a competitive one. The Panthers spent big in 2011 and went into the year with a Frankenstein team that ended up winning the Southeast Division. This year the Panthers spent their money filling out a roster with a young and rising core with key and complementary players that will each contribute in their own way.

This orchestra conducted by Dale Tallon and backed by his ownership team all lead up to two variables that directly correlate to one another: Fans in the stands and wins on the score sheets.

Over the last 5 years you can see a shift in capacity percentage at the BB&T Center

Year Capacity Percentage Record
2008-2009 78.7 32-37-13
2010-2011 81.5 30-40-12
2011-2012 86.4 38-26-18
2012-2013 88.3 15-27-6
2013-2014 75.5 29-45-8

Source: http://www.hockeyattendance.com/team/florida-panthers/

A lot goes in to the attendance of an NHL team but the common denominator is always the on ice product. Fans will watch a team that they think can win games. That’s sports fans 101, nothing new. You can see a steady increase in attendance from 2008-2012 that culminates in the season following the Southeast Division Championship and subsequent first round elimination. Unfortunately that momentum was met with the team’s worst finish in 5 years leading up to their worst attendance in the same span.

If the fans don’t expect wins then the team shouldn’t expect the fans.

So what makes this year different? Is this year even going to be different? I’ll spare you the optimistic rant but Tallon’s rebuild is in full swing. The core is there, the complimentary parts have been acquired and the team is poised to ice the most competitive version of themselves that the league has seen in a long while.

The marketing side has done its job to set the tone for the upcoming season. They have started to build fan pride and unity with their “One Under The Sun” slogan. They have created and upheld the buzz of the youth movement with the “Be Here to Witness” campaign. In addition to the posters and social media efforts, Tallon was also fairly blunt about the acquisition of Roberto Luongo being as much of a marketing move as it was a hockey move. Tallon was right to do it; Luongo’s presence has not only excited the fans but brought a media relevance that the Panthers have lacked in recent years.

These actions appear to have the market ready to go for the 2013-2014 season but it ultimately comes down to the on-ice product. The Panthers on ice play will dictate if the initial surge of season-opening attendance will linger or taper off.

When a fan base is used to a losing team and starving for a winning one, the sheer notion of competitive hockey can be enough to bring fans in. I think that this will be the driving force behind the resurgence of the attendance at the BB&T Center. The fans will slowly realize that this team is V.2 of a rebuilt squad that is slowly coming into its own. They will see the dynamic youth, the scoring veterans, the entertaining goaltending and be drawn in as they have in the past.

The Panthers have a tough task ahead of them, but they are primed to surprise and with that the seats will be filled.

2014 Draft Profile: Ser Thatcher Demko

Ser Demko


HEIGHT: 6’4″
WEIGHT: 192 lbs.

[Read more…]

How Important is Luongo to the Florida Panthers Brand?

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.

How to Improve The Florida Panthers’ Brand

When new owner Vincent Viola took the reins of the Florida Panthers prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, he made it very clear that the team would no longer be content to simply survive in Florida, but flourish instead.

As the inaugural season of the Viola-Cifu era comes to a close, both players and management have already begun to look ahead to an offseason in which new ownership will have the time and planning to truly make their mark both on and off the ice.

With that in mind, there are several key areas that should be addressed if the organization hopes to go from a perpetual sideshow to a respected franchise.

Some areas in need of change are obvious.

[Read more…]

Panther Parkway Radio: Jeff Marek Discusses Mackenzie Weegar, Free Agency, Draft Day & More!

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest Florida Panthers news of the week with Jeff Marek!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Jameson Cooper and Jeff Marek of Hockey Central


  • SportsNet
  • What does Mackenzie Weegar do for the Panthers blue line?
  • Ekblad discussion
  • Panthers draft discussion
  • Is Florida an attractive free agent destination?
  • Best free agents for Florida

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Panther Parkway Radio: Season Review, Coaching, Draft, Free Agency & Who Should Stay?

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest Florida Panthers news of the week!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Frank Rekas, Dave Lasseter, Jameson Cooper and Mike Lewis (no relations to Paige)


  • Season Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
  • Coaching change?
  • Draft Lottery/Draft Day
  • 5 guys you would want in Free Agency
  • Veterans. Who stays, who goes?
  • Does Dan Ellis have a future with the Cats?
  • Tanner Glass makes the world go ’round.

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Florida Panthers Season In Review. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Saturday night the regular season ended for the Florida Panthers the way it has in 12 of the past 13 seasons; out of the playoffs.  In addition the Panthers will once again be slated for one of the top three picks in this years draft.  Another familiar position they’ve known all too well since the summer of 2010.  The season was summed up perfectly by young defenceman Erik Gudbranson who had this to say after Saturday night’s loss to Columbus:

“It difficult. You never want to be in this position,” Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “This isn’t fun. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early in the season in that nine-game stretch, and we really didn’t recover well.

“It’s a disappointing feeling in here. You want to be in the playoffs. For it to end so abruptly now, it’s difficult.”

Now that the season has been completed, we’ll look at what worked, what didn’t work, and what we don’t want to see again.

[Read more…]

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Blue Jackets

Stars of the game

1st: Ryan Johansen (1G-1A-2P)

2nd: Jimmy Hayes (1G-0A-1P)

3rd: Mark Letestu (1G-0A-1P)

[Read more…]

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Stars

Stars of the game

1st: Sean Bergenheim (1G-0A-1P- GW Goal)

2nd: Brandon Pirri (1G-1A-2P)

3rd: Tyler Seguin (1G-1A-2P)

Goals (Panthers 3, Stars 2)

DAL: Jamie Benn (33)  Assists: Tyler Seguin, Trevor Daley

DAL: Tyler Seguin  (36) (Power Play) Assists: Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley

FLA: Scottie Upshall (15) Assists: Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Pirri

FLA: Brandon Pirri (12) Assists: Jimmy Hayes, Bobby Butler

FLA: Sean Bergenheim (16) Assists: Colby Robak, Scott Gomez

[Read more…]


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