When will the Florida Panthers relocate?

Alex Mullany

Ice Hockey

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman expanded into eight new markets between 1990 and 2000: Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.

In 2011, the Thrashers were sold to a new management group and their team was relocated to Winnipeg in Canada. Florida are struggling to stay alive in a market that doesn’t necessary want them.

It’s no secret that the Panthers are losing money. The owners of the team admitted they lost roughly £64,000 a day last season. Since their only playoff appearance against the New Jersey Devils in 2011/2012, the Panthers finished in the bottom five of the Eastern Conference seven out of nine seasons since 2005/2006. Attendance dropped significantly since their playoff run in 2011, from a peak of roughly 17,000 to a low of 8850 this year. So why are the Panthers still in Florida if they are losing money to this extent?

The owners of the team Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu decided to stop papering home games in order to attract more fans. Through the first two months of the season, attendance dropped from 14,500 to approximately 8,850. How many tickets were the Panthers giving out to fill the BB&T Center last year? Using their figure of losing £64,000 a day, over the course of the seven month season they lost approximately £12,800,000.

Bettman never admitted the struggles of the Thrashers until the day they were officially sold to a group in Winnipeg. I don’t see him openly discussing about the Panthers unless a similar situation arose. Just like his speech to the winning Stanley Cup team each year, he talks about how each team has “dedicated and passionate fans.” Somehow I don’t think he’s been to a Florida Panthers game.

First off, The Panthers are actually based in Sunrise a suburb approximately thirty miles away from Miami. Second, if Florida was a passionate hockey market as he said in the past, why aren’t people showing up?  It all boils down to Bettman refusing to admit he made another poor choice in picking a hockey market to expand to.

When the team made the playoffs, they had a lot of games near capacity during the regular season and playoffs. In all of the years where they didn’t make the playoffs, they would only fill their arena with the help of bigger markets like Toronto, Montreal, and Chicago. In the last three seasons, they haven’t been anywhere near reaching maximum capacity at any of their games.s

I see the Panthers becoming financially cumbersome in the coming years, and it is only a matter of time before their owners pull the plug on a team haemorrhaging money. They shelled out £76,600,000 and they want to make money on their investment. It is an investment that has been in the red every year since they purchased the team. I look forward to the team being moved north of the border to Canada.

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