The Florida Panthers will officially serve as hosts for the 2021 Honda NHL All-Star Game at BB&T Center. Obviously that is great news for hockey fans in south Florida and around the country who are looking forward to the festivities taking place in the sun. But, this is also a big opportunity for the Panthers organization and the NHL, so if you aren’t excited for this, here’s why you should be.
STars will come out
The NHL has struggled in recent years when it comes to player participation in the All-Star festivities. Many top players such as Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby among others have made it a habit to sit out of All-Star weekend in favor of rest, free time, or vacations. But, when the All-Star game, which obviously takes place in the heart of winter, is going on in sunny south Florida, players should be more inclined to show up. This is a tourist and vacation destination anyway which should attract the high-end talent to come play some exhibition hockey while enjoying the beach in between. In short, we should have the most star-studded All-Star weekend the NHL has seen in quite some time.
Perfect storm of relevance
The Panthers are taking the next big step. That’s evident in the moves they have made, the way they have played, and where they are in the standings. With the talent on the roster, the coach behind the bench, and the money being spent have positioned the Panthers as a near-contender if not a contender already. Whether they make a deep playoff run this year or not, by this time next year, they very well may have earned the respect of the NHL and those who follow the sport. In 2003, when the Panthers last hosted the event, the team was not a contender and the event didn’t do much to grow the fanbase or give out of town fans a real taste of what this could be as a hockey home. But this a different era for the Panthers and if they are once again in a position to make a playoff run next year, the All-Star game could be the event that finally solidifies south Florida as a hockey town. The All-Star game (and hopefully a Stanley Cup) could be the perfect storm at just the right time to bring hockey relevance to Sunrise with a little south Florida flair for everyone to see.
hockey’s best kept secret
As Panther fans, we all know what we are lucky enough to have in Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad, etc. We have some truly elite talent taking the ice at BB&T Center every night like we have not seen before in the franchise’s history. But the rest of the hockey world still doesn’t seem to notice. We have one player at every All-Star game and that is usually the extent of the attention our players receive. It’s almost as if everyone forgot Ekblad was once Rookie of the Year and the youngest defenseman to ever appear at the All-Star game (18 years of age). And Huberdeau was a Rookie of the Year winner as well but is just now getting his first crack as an All-Star. But next year, representation will be different. The host team is able to send more than the standard one player. So if health permits, the Panthers will in all likelihood, send Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad and potentially Sergei Bobrovsky or another star player. For the first time, the All-Star stage will be set and we’ll be represented by our whole array of franchise talent for the hockey world to see. The core here is special in terms of talent, but they may be the best kept secret in the NHL as evidenced by the NHL Players Poll which saw Barkov and Huberdeau voted as the two most underrated players in hockey by their peers in the league. The All-Star game is a good chance for everyone to see what we have all known ourselves for a number of years. Our core is one of the most talented you can find in this league.
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