Since expanding to the NHL in 1993, the Florida Panthers have had quite the history in the places they’ve played and the memories they’ve made in them, starting in Miami, and eventually working their way up to Broward County.
The Place That Started It All: Miami Arena (1993-1998)
The Miami Arena is where it all began for the Panthers. It’s where the team became the NHL’s winningest expansion team until the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league. It is also where some of the most memorable moments in franchise history occurred, like the “Rat Trick” when Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his stick before the game and then scored two goals with it or “the goal” from Bill Lindsay in the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Miami Arena is where one of the Panthers’ greatest traditions was started: fans throwing rubber rats on the ice after a goal, and it was the home of their first stars, like John “Beezer” Vanbiesbrouck, Ed Jovanoski, and Robert Svehla.
In addition, it was also shared with the Miami Heat of the NBA for one year in 1998 until they found their new home at the FTX Arena in downtown Miami.
It was their home until their new arena opened in Sunrise, Florida, in 1998 and was demolished in 2008, though the organization saved most of their artifacts.
Panthers Relocate to Sunrise: National Rental Car Center (1998-2002)
Opened on Oct. 3, 1998, the Panthers played their first game at National Rental Car Center only six days later. The name came from the rental car center owned by the former Panthers owner, Wayne Huizenga. This featured green seats and an upgrade in seat capacity from 17,000 to over 19,000 attendees. This stadium housed the “Russian Rocket” in Pavel Bure in a Panthers uniform and his brother in Valeri.
However, the name of this rink would only stick for about five years due to the original company filing for bankruptcy. As a result, they had to find a new sponsor.
Office Depot Center (2002-2005)
Their new sponsor was found the same year with the people over at Office Depot. The company was headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. So it almost made sense to go through with this name change. But just like its previous name, the sponsor was also short-lived. This would show off the likes of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and former Cup-winning coach, Mike Keenan. Furthermore, it was also the home to the 2003 NHL All-Star game, where the first shootout in All-Star game history occurred as the Western Conference won 6-5 in that fashion.
Once again, the Panthers scrambled to find a new sponsor and lucked out with their partner in Bank Atlantic in 2005.
Bank Atlantic Center (2005-2012)
Named after the bank headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Bank Atlantic would become their longest-running sponsor for the Panthers’ arena in their team’s history.
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Around this time, the arena featured some greats that cemented themselves in Panther history, such as all-time goal-scoring leader Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo’s first stint with the Cats. In addition, it was the center of Florida’s 2012 playoff run, featuring Stephen Weiss, the return of Jovanoski and Kris Versteeg. This was the name of Florida’s home for seven years.
BB&T Center (2012-2021)
After Bank Atlantic changed their company name, so did the stadium’s. This has seen some of their greatest moments in recent Florida history such as their 2015-16 playoff run, the great Aleksander Barkov making history tallying up the most points in a single season in the 2018-19 season, Jaromir Jagr becoming second all-time in league history points behind Wayne Gretzky, and the return of the rats on the ice. In addition, it was the event holder of the 2015 NHL Draft, which featured big names such as Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres. Most fans still refer to the stadium as this name today.
But of course, the sponsorship came to a sudden end, and Florida is currently left scrambling to find a new one to fill the void.
FLA Live Arena (2021-Present)
This name is currently serving as a temporary placeholder until a new sponsor is found. But this name could house some fantastic moments in the future for the Panthers such as Barkov, Huberdeau and the rise of head coach Joel Quenneville. With arguably one of their most talented rosters in franchise history, FLA Live Arena could be seen as the center of hockey in South Florida.
More than likely, the main goal is to stay down south in the warm weather. However, there are always talks of a potential relocation across the league. Fans from other teams, both existent and not, call on Florida to move due to their attendance numbers. Currently, they have a hold on the lease for this arena until 2028 but have the option to opt-out in 2023. Although if the success starts coming to life in Broward County, they may be more inclined to stay in South Florida 2028 and beyond.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!