The Florida Panthers Start The Season Desperately Seeking Respect

This season is the 20th anniversary of South Florida’s hockey club, the Florida Panthers.  A franchise that was born the same year this writer moved to the Sunshine State, and has provided the fanbase with thrills and disapppointment just like any other sports team.  The negatives may have outweighed the positives during these two decades, however with the announcement of new ownership which came on Friday, the Florida Panthers are about to embark their way back.  Back to a team that had the respect of the league and it’s fans when they first joined the NHL.  It’s going to take time, but maybe not as long as was originally thought.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced this past Friday that Vincent Viola has become Chairman, Principal Owner & Governor of SSE, the Florida Panthers and the Broward County-owned BB&T Center. 
In addition to that, Douglass Cifu will take on the role of Vice Chairman, Partner and Alternate Governor, as Michael Yormark has been promoted to President and CEO of the organization.  The announcement and video from the Panthers website can be found here.

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Get Ready For The Upcoming Panthers’ Season By Re-Living Last Year’s Biggest Moments

With the arrival of new owner Vincent Viola and recent roster additions such as goaltender Tim Thomas, it’s hard to imagine that Panthers’ fans could get more excited for the upcoming season. However, before the puck drops in Dallas on Thursday for the team’s season opener, lets take a moment to look back at some of the biggest events of the Panthers’ 2012-2013 campaign.

While the teams eventual fall to 15th place in the Eastern Conference may be worth forgetting, there were several “wow” moments from last season that are definitely worth revisiting. Although the team could not find sustained success last season, it’s plays like the ones listed below that gave fans a glimpse into the future and what the Panthers may become someday.

Huberdeau Starts His Career With a Bang!

In front of a sellout crowd at the BB&T Center, Jonathan Huberdeau scores not only the first Panthers’ goal of the 2012-2013 season, but also the first of his hopefully stellar career.

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“Voila”. The Florida Panthers Improve With 3 Smart Moves Saturday

The news just keeps getting better in South Florida as the Florida Panthers announced this morning that they’ve added three players to help round out their roster.  With new team owner Vincent Viola in the fold, the improvements are well under way to make the Panthers more competitive.

Signed today to one year deals were forward Brad Boyes and defenceman Tom Gilbert.  Both players are veterans who will instantly help make the roster more competitive with their experience.  Boyes who last season played on Long Island, can fit nicely in the top six (most likely the second line), and hopefully comes close to the point production he had while playing last season with John Tavares.  Boyes also had some productive years while playing for the St. Louis Blues just a few seasons ago (recording 43 goals in 2006-2007, and 72 points the following year), therefore his added offensive punch is much needed.

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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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7th Round Pick Mackenzie Weegar Could Prove to be Draft Day Steal For Panthers

Usually a wasteland reserved for long-term projects, underachievers and question marks, you normally would be hard pressed to find any value in the 7th round of the NHL draft. For every Henrik Zetterberg or Joe Pavelski, there are countless players selected in the 7th round that never come close to suiting up in an NHL game. However, while the odds may be stacked against them, the Florida Panthers may have found their very own 7th round gem in 19-year-old defenseman Mackenzie Weegar.

Already a success story in his own right, Weegar’s path to the Panthers was hardly paved with gold as the young defenseman has seemingly had a cloud of adversity hanging over his head much like so many rain clouds that hover over the Sunshine State.

After two consecutive years of going unnoticed and un-drafted by the OHL, a disappointed Weegar made his way to waivers. With his hockey future in doubt, Weegar’s career found new life when the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies selected him first overall in the OHL waiver draft. Soon thereafter, Halifax Mooseheads’ General Manager, Cam Russell, completed a trade for Weegar, sending a 2012, 9th round pick to the Huskies. Even though he had finally made it to the QMJHL, Weegar made the decision to return to Ontario to play Junior A in the CCHL for the Nepean Raiders. After tasting success with the Raiders, Weegar made a mid-season decision to commit to Halifax for the 2012-13 season.

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Panther Parkway Mailbag: Answers To Your Florida Panthers Questions

As the hockey season gets ever so thankfully closer to opening night, I thought that it would be a good idea to see what’s on the mind of the Florida Panther fan base.  The mailbag could also become a semi-monthly post on our website as I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot on your minds as the season progresses.

Let’s begin:

@MiraStastny had two questions.  Here they are: 1)  Heard some rumours at the end of the last season that Tallon could be on a hot seat. Could he be let go if things go awry again?  I personally would find it hard to believe that Dale Tallon would be let go while in the middle of his contract extension, which I believe has another three seasons remaining beyond this year.  With the teams’ internal budget being what it is, he’s has done an excellent job at acquiring the players.  After he gets the players, it’s then up to the coaching staff and the player(s) to get maximum performance. You can read between the lines there.  In addition, I think most everyone (Tallon included) gets a mulligan due to last season’s lockout that was combined with the rash of injuries that literally took over the roster.  Obviously with new ownership just awaiting approval, things could change, but I would look for positive changes such as Dale having more to spend.  We have a bright future with our prospect pool being one of the best.  Dale Tallon is the right man for this rebuild, and he’s being even more “frugal” than he was in Chicago where he did an outstanding job helping the Blackhawks come back from the basement of the NHL.  As much as we want things to turn around immediately, we need to show some level of patience.  The blueprint is on schedule, therefore I say Dale is safe.

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Florida Panthers Announced Their First Player Cuts

Last week, the Florida Panthers began their training camp with a double header against the Nashville Predators in which they won both games, respectively. After heading to the Lone Star state earlier this week, the Panthers were held to just 3 goals in two games as they battled the Dallas Stars. With four pre-season games already in the books (2-1-1), and three games left to go, the Florida Panthers line-up is looking closer and closer to what we’ll see when the puck drops on Oct 3rd, in Dallas. The Florida Panthers announced this morning that they have made their first batch of cuts:

The following players have been loaned to their Minor League Affiliates, the San Antonio Rampage:

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Panther Parkway Radio: 1st Line Center Debate, Tim Thomas, Pre-season, & More!

The Florida Panthers have begun their much anticipated pre-season, and have compiled 5 of 6 possible points in their first 3 games (that don’t matter). The past few days have been a hectic and chaotic one for the Panthers and their fans ever since word spread that they could possibly sign RW Brad Boyes, D Tom Gilbert, and G Tim Thomas (all offered PTOs). For tonight’s podcast, we will be discussing everything that has been going on this past week, including the very controversial topic, “Who should be the first line center”. Tune in, and enjoy!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Frank Rekas, Dave Lasseter, Jameson Cooper


  • First Line Center?
  • Drew Shore a good fit for the wing?
  • Tim Thomas a good fit for the Panthers?
  • Aleksander Barkov
  • Pre-Season

Click the link below for today’s podcast!

We welcome and encourage comments and feedback!

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

What Will Tim Thomas Bring to The Florida Panthers?

Tim Thomas (Wikipedia)

Tim Thomas (Wikipedia)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps a bunker, it’s fair to assume that you are already aware that former Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas has accepted a tryout with the Florida Panthers and took the ice for the first time yesterday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in Coral Springs. Although the mystery of where Thomas will sign is now no longer a hot topic, the question of what exactly he will bring to Florida is. On the surface, the potential signing of Thomas seems like a no-brainer based on his imposing hockey resume. Sporting a career .921 SV%, 2.48 GAA with a career record of 196-121-45 in 378 games professional games played, it’s hard to argue against the signing Thomas simply based on numbers.

Off the ice, Thomas’ became a lightning rod for controversy toward the end of his career with the Bruins due to his outspokenness on issues ranging from politics to gay rights. However, after 17 months away from the game and out from under the spotlight, it seems that Thomas is finally ready to get back to focusing on the  game he loves so much.

“I feel almost reborn in a way,” Thomas said to Panthers’ media after his first full practice with the team. “After 14 years of pro hockey, I got tired. I needed a break. But I’m energized and looking forward to it. I feel great.”

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Aleksander Barkov: Impresses Coaches and Players, but Not Himself

BarkovYesterday kicked off games one and two of a seven-game pre-season schedule in which the Florida Panthers will participate in over the next 2 weeks. After defeating captain Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators first batch of players in a 6-3 comeback win, a whole new group of Panther rookies and veterans looked to mimic their teammates success in game 2 against the highly anticipated newcomer, defenseman Seth Jones. Among the Panthers who appeared in game 2, Finnish rookie sensation Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov stepped onto the ice at the BB&T Center for the very first time.

Barkov’s first 5 minutes and 52 seconds of his NHL pre-season career wasn’t exactly what you would call a grand entrance. At times, Barkov looked a bit timid, hesitant even. He was indecisive with the puck during certain plays, almost as if he was afraid to make a mistake. But Barkov will be the first to tell you that his play in the first period wasn’t his finest of moments. “The first two periods were a disaster. I wasn’t completely lost, but guys came flying from left and right. During the 3rd period things started going my way, but this is definitely not enough”. Barkov continued. “It didn’t feel weird when I came on the ice. I didn’t keeping thinking to myself that I’m playing again after a long while, but somehow, I just didn’t get into the game”.

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