I had the pleasure of being able to attend yet another exclusive Panthers-related event on Friday. I got to hear from a panel of executives including Co-Owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu, Chairman Peter Luukko, General Manager Dale Tallon, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, led by Broadcaster Steve Goldstein. The discussion was similar to that of the last dinner, but I still was able to hear some interesting information about the Panthers. Read more for a brief overview of the Panthers Luncheon.
Gary Bettman said that there is certainly enough talent in the NHL for a few more expansion teams but he hasn’t really discussed it much with the board yet. He said that expansion is definitely a possibility but it is not happening any time in the super near future.
My dad and I talked to Gary Bettman about the possibility of a Winter Classic at the Marlins stadium but don’t hold your breath. Bettman seemed to think that the roof that comes over the stadium eliminates the purpose of the Winter Classic atmosphere. Maybe one day we will get our wish!
3-on-3 Overtime System
Dale Tallon seemed to really enjoy the concept of a 3-on-3 overtime system. He recalled a time when he used to play and how he didn’t feel that he had that much room to generate offense in a 4-on-4 setting. He said that this new system would give players more room to perform and score, which would decrease the amount of shootouts that the Panthers have to go through. He thought that it would be really fun to see players like Patrick Kane in a more spotlighted setting and I agree.
Hockey In Florida
After seeing the success that the Tampa Bay Lightning had in the playoffs, the Panthers’ executives all agreed that hockey can and will work in Florida. When asked what he would do to bring some free agents to Florida, Dale Tallon mentioned that players already do want to come to Florida to play because they appreciate the growing fan base and success of the team. The fans will come when the team’s success comes, and everyone there seemed to think that success will come sooner rather than later. Vinny Viola and Doug Cifu talked passionately about hockey in our community and bringing hockey to the schools. They also discussed the impact of social media and how supportive all of the fans are. Gary Bettman said that hockey fans are the most passionate fans because the way the sport is played requires the fans to get very involved. Peter Luukko said that when he joined the executive team, he knew that the city of Sunrise had potential to be a hockey town and both he and Gary Bettman stressed that Doug Cifu and Vinny Viola are the owners that can make that happen.
Dale Tallon made it clear that the team is going young and is not looking for immediate solutions to permanent problems. He wants to build the players up correctly and knows that the teamwork and family aspect that is apparent in both the team and the community will help the Panthers strive. He relayed the importance of character and said that each player has a specific role on the team and that all these roles will come together to create success. He used the example of Derek MacKenzie to back up this point and said that DMac is so essential to the team because he is so passionate. He said that when Luongo and Montoya got hurt, DMac was the first person to raise his hand and volunteer to play goalie. When asked how he would do it, MacKenzie said he would have to figure it out. It is players like these that will lead the Panthers to, as Vinny Viola said, not just one Stanley Cup, but many.
The Stanley Cup
I actually got the chance to have a conversation with the Keeper of the Cup, Philip Pritchard. I asked him what happens when there is no more space on the cup and he told me that every 13 years, one ring is taken off the Stanley Cup. This ring is flattened and hung up at the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is replaced with a new one with room for new names and the cycle repeats. I had no idea that was what happened! He told me that the Cup weighs around 35 pounds and that everybody who is part of the winning team gets to keep it for a day, even the medical staff. Now the Keeper of the Cup is the kind of job that I would like.
All-in-all, this experience was pretty incredible for me. Vinny Viola even came up to me and brought me over to Dale Tallon and Gary Bettman so I could tell the three of them who I thought would be chosen as the 11th pick. I’m glad that the Panthers’ management staff shares the passion of hockey in Florida that I, as well as the rest of the fans, do.