For sports fans, nothing can be more devastating than losing your franchise. You’ve spent all of your hard-earned cash on your team’s jerseys, t-shirts and other memorabilia, and now they only other people who see their value are hipsters wearing them ironically. Every once in awhile you can spot a guy with a mustache and black rimmed glasses rocking a Ron Francis Hartford Whalers jersey walking down the street. With the way things are going for the Florida Panthers, that same hipster could be sporting a spiffy vintage Jonathan Huberdeau jersey in the not so distant future.
Other hockey starved cities such as Quebec, Seattle and Hamilton, have been swooping around like vultures hoping to get their NHL teams back like Winnipeg in 2011. It’s hard to imagine any of these cities having similar financial struggles to that of the Florida Panthers. The constant rhetoric (in Canada for the most part) is how can Gary Bettman continue to support the failing teams and not give hockey to the diehard hockey fans that make the NHL so great? In the eyes of Quebecers, it’s as if they are planning to set up a french-only Celine Dion, poutine ice-sculpture festival and Gary Bettman would rather to take it on a southern US tour making stops in Glendale, Sunrise, Columbus, Raliegh, and all the other cities that don’t make sense. The Panthers are not a successful team, but many cities would take them in a heartbeat.
Currently they have a young core of players with some upside, sporting the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau to name a few. If history repeats itself however, these talents will either be traded away, walk as UFAs and add to stigma of losing that the team has become all too familiar with. With a lack of winning, low attendance and a healthy dose of financial woes, it’s time to take a peek at the twelve most depressing facts about your 1996 Stanley Cup finalist Florida Panthers.
12. 13 More Years on the Lease
This entry is more depressing for the fans in markets who wait on pins and needles for some sort of relocation news. The current lease the Panthers have with the BB&T Center is scheduled to run out in 2028. The owners, Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, have been adamant that their hockey club is not relocating anytime soon. In an interview with TheHockeyNews.com, Cifu stated “We have no desire to move this franchise. We are 100 percent convinced the Florida Panthers can be viable and sustainable in South Florida.” You have to admire the owners commitment to keeping their club and it would be great if there were hockey fans in South Florida who actually cared.
11. 20th Overall Finish in 2015
With 91 points the Florida Panthers witnessed some success last season. Unfortunately, just missing the playoffs means a mid -first round draft pick. No slam to Lawson Crouse, but how bright would the future be if Florida was in the McDavid conversation? Right now the Panthers are on pace to battle for an eighth playoff spot, putting them on the fringe of another mediocre finish. Hopefully for them, their young core of players can rise to the occasion or they can strike gold in the new NHL lottery format that gives non-playoff teams three chances to strike gold with a Top 3 pick. A future congratulations to the Oilers, by the way, for getting Austin Matthews.
10. $86 Million Bailout on the way?
Reports suggest that the club is looking for $86 million in public funds to bail out the team. Outside of the Canadian expats and the odd real Panthers fan, it’s going to be hard for the citizens of Broward County to cough up that kind of cash to keep their struggling hockey team afloat. It’s like a vegetarian being forced to pay full price at a Brazilian steak house. With so many other cities with fan bases who would likely start their own kickstarter if it meant a sniff at NHL hockey, it’s difficult to understand why we’re still bailing out the Panthers.
9. Six Years Left of Luongo
After a long and tumultuous end to his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo came back to the team he started with. He is still considered an elite goaltender and has played well in Florida, however he came over with a lot of baggage. While they are only paying $1,000,000 in salary at the latter part of the deal when Roberto is 42, he will cost a whopping cap hit of $4,533,333 a year. Luongo is still a fantastic goaltender, but at that cap hit, most teams might find more value from him as their social media manager. The sad part is that Florida might use it as an opportunity to simply meet the cap floor.
8. The Panthers Have Lost $114,000 a Day
In a interview with CBC, co-owner of the Panthers, Doug Cifu, admitted his team lost about $114,000 per dayduring the 2013-2014 season. That would equate to roughly $41.6 million. That number is roughly 3 million shy of the cap floor for the same season the comment was made. Now I’m not a business expert, but I feel safe in declaring that this is a huge problem. The NHL revenue sharing agreement helps make sure teams who don’t have the money to pay players with richer clubs, can still be competitive. It’s as if all the NHL teams all agreed to go in on a pizza and the Panthers conveniently forgot to bring their cash, then they lost $114,000. Every day.
7. Jagr > Panthers All-time Roster
The Panthers have played 1688 games in the NHL while their right winger Jaromir Jagr has played 1580. It’s not a big surprise that Jaromir has more wins than his current club. He also has five Art Ross Trophies, three Lester B. Pearsons, a Hart and not to mention, two Stanley Cups. To date the All-Time Florida Panther roster has managed to scoop up one Rocket, a Lady Byng and two Calders. To the Panthers credit, Jaromir is a generational player, future Hall of Famer, with a beautiful mullet to boot. As history shows, he also has a larger trophy cabinet than the team he plays for.
6. $5.5 Million for Dave Bolland
Prior to the off-season, the Florida Panthers offered center Dave Bolland a 5 year, $27.5 million contract. Hefty price and term for a player to be considered a good third line centre by league standards. In addition, he spent the previous season with the Maple Leafs injured only registering 12 points in 23 games. His first season with the Panthers was underwhelming and injury filled and he currently is on a conditioning stint with the Panthers AHL affiliate after only picking up 5 points in 25 games. It’ll be tough to swallow the remaining four years on this contract.
5. One Horrible Dan Boyle Trade
Dan Boyle may be in his twilight of his NHL career, but he will be remembered as an Olympic Gold medalist, for playing over 1,000 NHL games and winning a Stanley Cup. He’s likely not to be known as well for his short stint with the Florida Panthers. After failing to have a significant NHL debut with the big club, Florida decided to trade him away to their cross state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. What did they get in return for this top notch prospect? How about fifth round draft pick Martin Tuma? Unfortunately for Panther fans, he never made an appearance in the NHL.
4. Second Longest Playoff Series Win Drought
In 1996, the hockey world witnessed a true Cinderella story as the two year-old expansion team stunned the hockey world and marched to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the behemoths that were the
Quebec Nordiques Colorado Avalanche. Two relatively new teams might not have brought out the ratings the NHL was looking for. Sakic, Forsberg, Roy and company faced little opposition sweeping the series in four straight games, outscoring the Panthers 15-4. Since that tragic defeat, the Panthers have managed to make the playoffs three times, winning only four playoff games in those appearances. Next to only the New York Islanders, the Panthers haven’t won a series in 18 years.
3. Worst Attendance in 2014/15
Last year, the Florida Panthers finished last in the league in attendance averaging an attendance just above 11,000. That usually means they end up filling about 66% of the BB&T Centre. The lowest attendance reported was 7,311 during a game against the Ottawa Senators, even though the actual attendance was estimated to be around 5,000. In a stroke of advertising genius, partner Jordan Zimmerman branded all of the lower bowl seats with his company’s logo. While watching the morning highlights, the only thing that stood out from the game was the empty seats in the crowd and Zimmerman: a marketing and advertising company.
2. Here’s How Far Your $99 Goes
If you’re a die hard hockey fan on a budget, the city of Sunrise, Florida may be the destination for you. According to the Panthers website, with the purchase of their 2015 holiday package, you can get two tickets to three games of your choice, two tickets to the Everglades Holiday Park, an autographed puck, a parking pass to each game and two Panthers t-shirts. All for the depressingly low price of $99 US. How many of those do you need to sell to afford the $7,142,875 that is Brian Campbell’s salary that thankfully ends this year? The answer: roughly 72,150 this holiday.
1. So That Means, It’s Cheaper to Fly to Florida, Than to Watch Hockey in my Hometown…
North of the border in Toronto, a single ticket to the upper bowl of a Leaf vs. Panthers game will roughly cost $90 CAD, according to Ticketmaster. Two of those and you’re well over the cost of the $99 it costs for the Florida Panther Holiday Bundle. So for three pairs of the cheapest Leaf tickets is $540, parking three times is $60, two t-shirts are $60, autographed puck is $10 and a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame (to replace the Everglade Holiday Park option in the bundle) is around $40. Already we’re at $710 (Canadian dollars, without applicable taxes and unnecessary ticket fees). Find a good package on a travel site or take the car down south and you just may find yourself a lovely cheap mini hockey vacation.
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