In any sport, you look forward to playing at your home venue. Being the home team offers many advantage; comfortability, no jet lag, a crowd that gets behind you… or at least that’s what the expectation is. But on October 13th, 2014, the Florida Panthers didn’t enjoy much of a home ice advantage; in fact, they played in front of the smallest crowd in franchise history. Poor, poor Panthers.
The Florida Panthers organization is in trouble.
They’re basically broke, they’ve won just three playoff series’ since their inaugural NHL season in 1993-94. Not only did they set a franchise low in attendance, they also set the record for smallest attendance in a home opener this season. A year ago, they finished 29th out of 30 teams. It doesn’t help that the team they lost to Monday night was from Ottawa attracting many Canadian media outlets to the abysmal attendance the Panthers are producing.
But what are the Panthers supposed to do? They’ve brought in new talent, the team is under new ownership… maybe it’s time we all accept the fact that Florida doesn’t have a huge hockey market and fan base; aside from Tampa Bay, there may not be room for another Florida team.
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) October 13, 2014
It’s hard to swallow for some, but it’s reality; the Panthers aren’t profitable and there are other cities where they could thrive. The average attendance for an NHL game is more than 17,000 fans, with almost half of the NHL teams averaging sellouts. Last season, the Florida Panthers ranked last in average percentage of arena filled at 75.5%. That’s not good enough.
7,311 for Sens at Panthers tonight. And that number seems generous, given the pictures I saw. Not good.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) October 14, 2014
It’s a tough way to start a season. In two homes games, they’ve set two franchise records for lowest attendance’s. How can we expect it to get any better? How can we take the seriously the owners statements that indicate a winning season and a Stanley Cup run? I’m sorry, but a Stanley Cup run doesn’t happen when you can’t fill your arena. There are plenty of cities that would fill an arena, and after a bad, embarrassing start for the Florida Panthers, something has got to change. This isn’t just a bad night for Panther fans, it’s a sad night for hockey fans.
Loyalty is best earned on the back of virtue, honor and integrity. Together, we climb. Thanks to all who came. #FlaPanthers
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) October 14, 2014
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Smith works full time with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit set on ending world hunger by 2030. He’s a hockey enthusiast living in Pittsburgh, PA and formerly covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for THW.
Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV