The Florida Panthers have been making headlines all summer, and the past few weeks have been no exception. After trading away Jay Bouwmeester at the NHL draft, the Panthers have continued to make moves, both on and off the ice. Here’s a look back at what has come out of south Florida lately.
First, in regards to the actual team that will appear on the ice, acting general manager Randy Sexton pulled off a minor miracle in getting Jordan Leopold to sign with the Cats. Only 24 hours prior to the deal being announced, Sexton said that chances were slim that Leopold would be a Panther. While the Panthers are still lacking in blue line experience, Leopold will certainly provide an upgrade to what could have been a defence that had 2 or 3 rookies skating healthy minutes throughout the season. However, Leopold is the lone post-free agency acquisition that should improve this team next season. There have been a few depth moves, adding players to their AHL affiliate, but the offense looks almost identical to the one that struggled to produce last season.
What might be as befuddling to fans as the lack of movement from the front office, is the preseason schedule. The Panthers will do their annual physicals in their brand new, top notch practice facility in Coral Springs on September 12th. The next day, the team boards a plane and heads for Nova Scotia, where they will hold a few practices before playing their first preseason game in Halifax against the Ottawa Senators. Now hold on, because this is quite a trip… From Halifax, Florida will play in Ottawa on the 16th, Montreal on the 17th, Edmonton on the 18th, Calgary on the 20th, then waaay down to Dallas for a game on the 22nd, then finally back to south Florida for a final game on the 23rd. You would think that would be enough frequent flyermiles to satisfy, but do not forget; the Panthers are 1 of 4 teams heading to Helsinki, Finland to open the NHL season. So after a couple days at home, the Panthers head to Europe and will play two more exhibition games against Finnish teams on the 28th and 30thof the month, before opening their NHL schedule against the Blackhawks on October 2nd.
While this looks like an unbelievably harsh schedule, the Panthers do have a large number of prospects and rookies that will tag along on these trips, giving coaches and management a look at who might be able to get a shot at the big club during the season. There will be, in effect, an A and a B team. While one team is playing in Montreal, the other is heading to Edmonton. And what better way to bond a young team then to share hotel rooms across Canada? But travel is travel, and this is a whole bunch of travel. Perhaps coincidentally, and certainly fortunately, after the Panthers final game in Finland, they will have almost an entire week off before making their continental debut on October 9th.
And then there was this. Drew Rosenhaus. Huh? Yes, the super-agent, whose clients include Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, and Chad Ochocinco, has added the fans of the Florida Panthers to his clientele. Again, huh? In an unusual, albeit intriguing marketing ploy, Rosenhaus was “hired” by the fans of the Panthers in order to get prices on tickets reduced, along with a few other perks. Team President Michael Yormark was “in negotiations” with Rosenhaus, and in the end, Panther fans can now get lower bowl season tickets for $35 a game, along with locker room tours and meet and greets with players. In a “statement” released by Rosenhaus; “The Panthers’ willingness to ‘negotiate’ their season ticket pricing structure means that Cats fans won’t have to ‘show the money’ – or at least too much of it – to experience NHL hockey during the 09-10 season,” Rosenhaus said. “When you consider that for just $35 a game, you get admission, parking and special player-related benefits, that’s a super value courtesy of the super agent.” Juvenile marketing ploy? Maybe, probably. But in the market that is south Florida, sometimes you have to go a little out of the box to get attention, and you certainly cannot argue the financial aspects of it.
** image above: storyspinn via flickr.com