If you’re a fan of the Florida Panthers, chances are you’ve already heard the comments NESN broadcaster and Boston Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards made Thursday regarding the team and what he believes is a non-existent fan base. If you haven’t, give it a listen .
Edwards comments are laughable and here’s why. From the 2001-02 to the 2007-08 seasons, the Panthers outdrew the Bruins EVERY YEAR except one! That’s right, South Florida, the area that should lose it’s hockey team to Quebec City, outdrew an Original Six team for the better part of a decade! And, as my Rat Trick brother-in-arms Frank Rekas stated in his opinion of this matter, that while the Bruins were bad, the Panthers were no better (hence the decade long playoff drought that everyone is real quick to bring up).
It’s made even more laughable by the fact that the guy to his immediate left (Mike Milbury) was the GM of a team (New York Islanders) that drew less than 9000 fans the night before. Or the fact that for as bad as the Panthers have been since their last playoff appearance, the team has never been dead last in attendance. It says something that even as the team is mired in it’s playoff drought, even if there hasn’t been a superstar skater here since Pavel Bure, even though previous GM regimes have done their best to screw the organization up, that enough people come through the turnstyles to keep the numbers respectable. The team has lost the ‘casual follower’, the same way the Bruins lost them for the better part of the 2000s with their slump, coupled with the Boston Red Sox, and New England Patriots winning championships.
But, I wouldn’t expect Edwards to do his homework before he opens his mouth, as he never really has before. This is my favorite Jack Edwards story: In the early part of this decade, Jack worked at ESPN as its play-by-play man for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. At the 2002 MLS All-Star game at RFK Stadium in Washingtion DC (which pitted the US against a group of MLS All-Stars), Jack was listing the accomplishments of aging DC hero and Bolivian national Marco Etcheverry, who was named MVP of the game. Among them, he listed his ‘glorious 1994 World Cup‘ (which was held in the US). Here’s a fun fact about Etcheverry‘s 1994 World Cup: El Diablo, as he is known, entered Bolivia’s first game as a second half substitute against Germany. Within 15 minutes of play, he was red-carded (soccer’s equivalent of a game misconduct), sent off, and suspended for Bolivia’s final two games. Sounds ‘glorious’, doesn’t it?
I don’t know how the fans in Boston listen to Jackie on a night in-night out basis. I imagine they want to shoot out their tv, the way Elvis shot his when Robert Goulet came on. His ability to use hyperbole over the most minute of details is annoying at best. The only time he belongs in front of a microphone is to say “Dufrene, party of four, your table is ready.’ As someone who had to endure his commentary during the US Soccer Team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, I feel I’ve heard him enough to say that with confidence.
As for people not caring about this team, the attendance numbers show that they’ve been pretty loyal, especially considering the lack of quality in the on-ice product for many years. In case you couldn’t sense the angry tone of this post, I CARE! This is an area that still has had a hockey team for less than two decades and most of that time, the team has lost more than they won. Yet, enough people still come. Winning cures all. You win, more people will come. That’s the way it has worked in Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh. And that’s the way it will be in South Florida.
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