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article imageFlorida Panthers losing history being blamed for poor attendance

By Ben Morris     Oct 15, 2014 in Sports
Sunrise - It is a picture that went viral for all the wrong reasons. An early season game between the Ottawa Senators visiting the Florida Panthers had such little attendance, many have called for the re-location of the Florida Panthers.
In 1995-96 the Florida Panthers shocked the NHL. Lead by goaltender John Vanbriesbrouck, and captained by Brian Skrudland, the Panthers went through the Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers to fight Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. With toy rats falling from the stands, Florida beat Pittsburgh in seven games to reach the Cup Finals in just their third year in the league.
They were no match for the Colorado Avalanche who beat them in a sweep, but the fans were passionate. On average 13,000 people showed up to the rink. In 1998-99 more than 18,000 fans attended Panthers home games. As the team fails to replicate their early success, fans have stopped showing up. Since their Stanley Cup appearance, the Panthers have only made the playoffs three times, never getting out of the first round.
Questions are being asked about what can be done and if the team will re-locate.
Panthers ownership has asked Broward County for $78.4 million to help the team cover their losses. As Brittany Wallman reported, county officials have delayed the decision, to help ownership offset the $20-30 million in annual loses. Those loses according to the players involved in last Monday's game have been caused by losing.
“You need to win games to get fans in the building. A couple of years ago they were in the playoffs and they had great crowds. It’s a matter of them putting some wins together and getting the fan base to come back,” former Panthers and current Senators goalie Craig Anderson to The Globe and Mail. Panthers players like Brian Campbell and Roberto Loungo were quoted as saying victories are important to get in the seats, but with all the effort management has made to develop a winning team, some believe it is not enough.
The team re-acquired Luongo from Vancouver, drafted a defenseman with a great upside, and dipped into the pocket book for players like Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen, to add some veterans to a young core of Johnathan Huberdeau, and Nick Bjurgstad, but those acquisitions have not excited fans of a franchise that has spent the last few years near the basement of the NHL.
As Jameson Olive of Fox Sports wrote in June, "While many point to the Panthers' lack of financial stability as the main hindrance of their on-ice success, the club's draft day blunders have been just as, if not more, responsible for the organization making the playoffs just four times in the past 20 seasons."
In 2007, Florida used their first round pick on Keaton Ellerby who now plays in the AHL.
Two picks later, Montreal selected current New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. In the second round of that same draft they passed on Norris trophy winner P.K Subban. In 2008 without a first round pick, they used two second round picks on Jacob Markstrom and Colby Robak, passing on players like Derek Stepan,Vyacheslav Voynov, Jake Allen and Adam Henrique.
Those picks and a history of losing had Travis Hughes of SB Nation blaming management for the people of Miami for failing to attend games. "People don't show up to watch bad teams, and this happens in every single sport. If your favorite franchise packs the stands even when the team is terrible, good for them. They are not in the majority."
Like many in Florida believe, taking a team from a city is rough on the fan base and team employees, but hockey writers like Dave Naylor "It’s time to say bye-bye." to hockey in Sunrise.
More about NHL, Florida panthers, Florida Panthers attendance, NHL relocation, Nhl draft
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