The Panthers revealed their new team charter jet today in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The announcement comes just over a year after Panthers majority owner Vincent Viola made a “major investment” in the new Eastern Air Lines trademark whose name once belonged to a major airline headquartered in Miami, Florida until it shut down in 1991. Cats on the Prowl was invited to the event and we were able to gather some information regarding the plane as well as interview team co-owner Doug Cifu about today’s news.
Today’s invite-only event was held in a Fort Lauderdale airplane hangar near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport and lots of people were on hand for the announcement, including forward Nick Bjugstad, captain Willie Mitchell, TV color analysts Denis Potvin and Randy Moller, play-by-play man Steve Goldstein, as well as GM Dale Tallon and head coach Gerard Gallant.
Just before 4PM, Steve Goldstein started things off by introducing Peter Luukko, the Panthers’ executive chairman. Luukko announced that the plane, which is a Boeing 737-700 with 64 seats, would not be at the event as expected due to unforeseen administrative issues with the Federal Aviation Administration, however he did say that it looked really good and is ready for the season. The plane has a Panthers logo on the tail and another one holding onto the “T” in the “Eastern” name on both sides of the aircraft. Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu told us that the plane is the most state-of-the art plane in the league and was reconfigured specifically for a hockey team and includes amenities such as a massage table and an area for players to after a game to get nutritious foods and other things for their diet. Without giving us too many details, Cifu mentioned that the team will be doing a “very very cool, military-themed team-building event” in Florida this year, similar to last year’s pre-season West Point trip.
GM Dale Tallon came up on the stage to talk about the Panthers and quickly recapped the rookie tournament games. He said that the entire team is healthy and specifically mentioned Dave Bolland, who he said returned from the summer break “in the best shape of his life,” and defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who he said grew to 6’6″, 230 pounds. He also said he is impressed with defensive prospect Mike Matheson and likes speed and smarts. Tallon noted that guys in the system such as Rocco Grimaldi, Garrett Wilson, Quinton Howden, and Connor Brickley could all be with the team this year, and he was very happy with the fact that we’ll now have 4 complete forward lines. He finished off his team overview with “go Panthers!” and exited the stage. He made no mention of Jonathan Huberdeau who has yet to agree to the rumored 2-year deal offered by the Panthers.
Following the event, we had the chance to speak briefly with Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu about the deal with Eastern Airlines and got some more info on the new team plane. Although the plane was not at the event, we hope to get to see the inside of it very soon. When we do, we’ll be sure to share more details with you.
Here’s the Doug Cifu interview: