It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish

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1993.

Jan 20, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss (9) during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Chicago won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Giglio-US PRESSWIRE

What happened in the year 1993? Michael Jordan made his first retirement from the NBA, The World Trade Center was bombed and Bill Clinton was in his second year as President of the United States. But as Florida Panther fans know it, 1993 was the year of our first NHL draft hosted by Quebec City. A draft that went on to produce ten players who would later help the Panthers make their way to the 1996 Stanley Cup.

Back then, Panther fans had to trek down to the heart of Miami to see their team play at the Miami Arena. This is where both the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers called home. Parking was a hassle and air conditioning seemed to be a luxury as it was on and off. It held just 14,000 seats with a mere 16 suites. Despite all this, the arena filled up. It may not have always been for “Your Florida Panthers,” but it proved that South Floridians loved hockey. They wanted to come out and see their favorite teams despite the less than ideal conditions.

Enter the National Car Rental Center. In 1998, a brand new arena was built to hold roughly 17,000 fans, consisting of 2,600 club seats along with a stunning 70 suites. With its location directly accessible to the Sawgrass Expressway and I-95, with time, more and more fans showed up to see this beautiful new arena.  South Florida hockey fans finally had a place to call home. Now when I say “a place to call home,” I say that very loosely. In the fourteen years of its existence, it has been called the National Car Rental Center, Office Depot Center, and now (as we all know it) The Bank Atlantic Center.  Nowadays, the Bank Atlantic Center is currently the largest arena in Florida and second-largest in the Southeastern United States.  It was the home to the Florida Pit Bulls, Florida Bobcats, Florida ThunderCats and the Miami Caliente.

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