During any given home game for the Florida Panthers, there is a higher chance that the visiting team has more supporters than the team with a palm tree patch on their sleeves.
If you listen to the local radio shows, the consensus is that the Panthers need sustained winning to attract more fans to their base. And, although attendance is up over last season when the Panthers set all types of NHL records and were able to get a first round win – for the first time in a very long time – there is something more afoot than that obvious talking point.
Announced attendance hovers at 85 percent of capacity but that is paid and if you are at a Panthers game it is easy to believe that only a third of the seats are occupied. The front office strategically schedules Canadian teams over the December break to sell more tickets for the snowbird crowd. So when the Toronto Maple Leafs or any other Original Six team comes to town, more than half of the crowd goes nuts when the other team scores.
“It’s disheartening to have to watch many other fans from opposing teams cheer and be loud for their team while playing in our home arena,” said Lester Martin, a diehard Panthers fan with a Venezuelan background, who drives over 50 minutes from Hialeah Gardens to see his team play half a dozen times a season.
The Panthers Have Become a Major Hockey Operation
Florida is a state with no income tax. Warm weather and interesting sightseeing – especially down on Lincoln Road around Halloween time. The southernmost NHL city just hosted the All-Star Game, which saw one of their star players, Matthew Tkachuk, lead the Atlantic Division to victory. This is a major hockey destination even if it is a small market team.
There is also some nice history with the team that broke into the league during the 1992-93 campaign. A Stanley Cup appearance complete with the Detroit Red Wings equivalent of the octopus – plastic rats thrown onto the ice for every goal, win, big save, etc. Extremely fitting…
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