Florida Panthers: Why Fans Should Attend Games This Season

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 22: Florida Panthers fans have messages for their team and funny hats during warm ups prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Wild at the BB&T Center on December 22, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 22: Florida Panthers fans have messages for their team and funny hats during warm ups prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Wild at the BB&T Center on December 22, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

South Florida is home to miles of beaches, concerts, and fun that lasts from the night until morning. There’s plenty of places you can spend your dollar, and this coming season, BB&T Center should be one of those places.

The attendance for the Florida Panthers since moving to Sunrise has been – to say the least – bad. The Cats have been in the bottom eight for each of the last four seasons after coming last in attendance in 2014-15.

The reason for this is understandable, Dale Tallon and the rest of the organization have spent a majority of this century rebuilding the roster, trying to form a true cup contender.

Despite this, Florida has made the playoffs just twice since 2000, upset in the first round by the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders in 2011-12 and 2015-16, respectively.

The audience of Miami is hard to bring in on a daily basis, winning is everything here in the South, as there are many other things to do than watch a rebuilding team.

This season, however, rebuilding is not the theme in mind for South Florida’s hockey club; the squad boasts its best level of talent since the year the Panthers made the cup, led by new captain Aleksander Barkov.

Barkov replaces Derek MacKenzie as the 10th captain in club history and has a very simple mindset with the role, win. Bob Boughner spoke out on the young forward on Monday:

At this moment, Aleksander Barkov could be considered the best athlete in South Florida. The Miami Marlins and Miami Dolphins lack a true star player after high caliber players Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Jarvis Landry were all traded.

The Miami Heat may have all-star caliber players like Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, as well as a franchise legend in Dwayne Wade, but the Panthers also have this kind of talent.

The Panthers have had different all-stars over the last three seasons, from Aaron Ekblad to Vincent Trocheck, as well as a franchise legend in Roberto Luongo. Looking at it, the Panthers aren’t in much different of a situation than the Heat in terms of rosters.

Both teams are young and fast, built around team play and focused on postseason success, the difference is that I feel the Panthers have a better shot at contending for deeper rounds in the playoffs for years to come, and now is a good time to pick up hockey.

Hockey is definitely not the sport that Floridians think of to play, as there isn’t exactly ice or rinks that there are in places like Detroit, Boston, and Minneapolis. There also isn’t the passion for hockey in Florida that there is in Canada, who (other than Toronto and Vancouver), only have the one team in their city.

Despite this, another hockey team across the state has one of the highest attendance of any team in the NHL, as the Tampa Bay Lightning came 5th in attendance last season.

There’s a lot of reasons for the success of the Lightning as a brand and a destination: the location of the arena, the deals they have, and a lot more that can be considered.

Although, the biggest reason I feel the Lightning are doing as well as they are is because of the success they’ve had over Steve Yzerman’s tenure as General Manager.

With the potential on their roster all signed to extensions, the Panthers can and will rival this same success in the years to come.

With all this considered, hockey games are some of the most fun live events to attend. Watching a Panthers game on TV doesn’t even compare to being at the BB&T Center, as the game is easier to follow, the crowd is much louder, and the games usually fail to disappoint.

The Cats’ plan is to turn the BB&T Center into a fortress this season after winning 27 of their 41 home games last season, the best home record for any team that didn’t make the playoffs. This was done while being the 28th best team in total attendance last season, finishing above Carolina, Arizona, and New York Islanders.

The players on the team speak volumes about the support provided when BB&T Center records high crowds, as both Trocheck and Alexander Petrovic have both been honored by the crowds in South Florida over their seasons with the franchise.

When the Panthers do fill the brims of BB&T for a game, the atmospheres are immeasurable. As a partial season ticket holder from the last four seasons, I’ve gone to over 40 games in the last four seasons, which is something that I can use to really tell whether the attendance is a serious problem.

When the Panthers are playing their best hockey, games feel and really are different when the crowd is there.

There is a genuine fire in our fanbase that may be dampened by rebuilding and injuries, but right now, that fire is the strongest it’s ever been.

Back to when the Panthers defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in January, the team was struggling, but on a weekend atmosphere the fans came out in full force, and it was felt by the players.

These kinds of games continued after the All-Star break, and it was more than just a winning team, it was all of South Florida together.

While this article shouldn’t be one to take a turn for the worse, talking about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School back in February was more than just a tragic event.

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Fortunately for those families involved that day, the Panthers dedicated the rest of the season to them, their hockey team, all the families of students affected, and those who didn’t make it out of high school that day.

The Panthers became the identity of South Florida following that, and when the people needed a hero, the Panthers provided it.

Attendance rose astronomically following MSD – in support of not just the Panthers – but in support of South Florida. These games gave everyone hope and fun for the rest of the season, the Panthers lost just twice at home following February 14th, and it was all to give back to the families and the people of South Florida.

If these games gave hope then, they’ll give hope now, especially with the roster and expectations being as loud as ever before.

Last season, the Panthers’ motto was ‘One Territory,’ not just Sunrise or Miami, but all of South Florida. Their pre-game graphics listed off the dozens of towns and cities that are within this so-called territory, stretching from Jupiter to Hialeah, all these places coming together to become one.

The Panthers gave South Florida an identity, now it’s time for the fans to repay that favor. Whether it’s the 1:30 commute going south on Florida’s Turnpike from West Palm Beach or the forty minute ride up I75 from Miami, this season could be the greatest and most challenging test that the Panthers may face since their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Without a doubt in my mind, by filling the BB&T Center and showing support throughout the entire 40 home games the Panthers have this season, there’s no telling what the franchise can do.