As The Panthers Face a Crossroads, A Difficult Decision Must Be Made

While many teams around the NHL have had their fair share of hardships, it’s difficult to say that any team is more universally associated with losing than the Florida Panthers. In the midst of their 20th anniversary season, the hapless Panthers have only managed to reach the playoffs four times since their conception. However, even though they lack a winning tradition, the Panthers still have the potential to change their image – possibly sooner than expected.

Even though they are currently blessed with one of the most talented group of prospects in the entire NHL, it’s no longer acceptable for the team to sell the idea that these young players will lead the Panthers to the promise land in the near future. While prospects like Rocco Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck, and Mike Matheson are all individually gifted, the Panthers have proven to be anything but effective at cultivating young talent throughout their history.

Of the 23 first-round picks in the team’s history, none have come close to reaching the levels of stardom that were expected of them. While part of this developmental hindrance can be attributed to draft day blunders, it’s hard to believe that a team simply could have swung and missed on that many first round picks.

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The Florida Panthers Start The Season Desperately Seeking Respect

This season is the 20th anniversary of South Florida’s hockey club, the Florida Panthers.  A franchise that was born the same year this writer moved to the Sunshine State, and has provided the fanbase with thrills and disapppointment just like any other sports team.  The negatives may have outweighed the positives during these two decades, however with the announcement of new ownership which came on Friday, the Florida Panthers are about to embark their way back.  Back to a team that had the respect of the league and it’s fans when they first joined the NHL.  It’s going to take time, but maybe not as long as was originally thought.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced this past Friday that Vincent Viola has become Chairman, Principal Owner & Governor of SSE, the Florida Panthers and the Broward County-owned BB&T Center. 
In addition to that, Douglass Cifu will take on the role of Vice Chairman, Partner and Alternate Governor, as Michael Yormark has been promoted to President and CEO of the organization.  The announcement and video from the Panthers website can be found here.

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“Voila”. The Florida Panthers Improve With 3 Smart Moves Saturday

The news just keeps getting better in South Florida as the Florida Panthers announced this morning that they’ve added three players to help round out their roster.  With new team owner Vincent Viola in the fold, the improvements are well under way to make the Panthers more competitive.

Signed today to one year deals were forward Brad Boyes and defenceman Tom Gilbert.  Both players are veterans who will instantly help make the roster more competitive with their experience.  Boyes who last season played on Long Island, can fit nicely in the top six (most likely the second line), and hopefully comes close to the point production he had while playing last season with John Tavares.  Boyes also had some productive years while playing for the St. Louis Blues just a few seasons ago (recording 43 goals in 2006-2007, and 72 points the following year), therefore his added offensive punch is much needed.

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New Panthers’ Owner Vincent Viola: “We’re Going to Win, Put The Word Out”

Vincent Viola (Jameson Cooper)

Vincent Viola (Jameson Cooper)

For the first time since the Panthers’ improbable 2012 trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the BB&T Center was once again the center of attention in South Florida as the team introduced Vincent Viola as the new Chairman, Principal Owner & Governor of SSE (Sunrise Sports and Entertainment), the Florida Panthers, and the Broward County-owned BB&T Center. In addition, his long-time friend and business partner Douglas Cifu will assume the role of Vice Chairman, Partner & Alternate Governor, while Michael R. Yormark has been promoted to the position of President & Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

“My family and I are honored to take the helm of the Florida Panthers organization with the No. 1 goal of putting a winning team on the ice year after year and bringing a Stanley Cup to our incredible fans here in South Florida,” Viola said in a press release issued before his introduction. “I believe strongly in family, work-ethic, loyalty, relentless effort and a positive attitude and we hope to build an organization based on those principles.”

A Brooklyn native, Viola currently sits as Chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial and is one of the nation’s foremost leaders in electronic trading. He began his career in the financial services industry on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange and rose to be Vice Chairman (1993-1996) and Chairman (2001-2004).   Adding to his already impressive business resume, Viola is also the founder and largest stockholder in Independent Bank Group, Inc (Nasdaq: IBTX), a community banking chain headquartered in McKinney, Texas that he founded in 1989. In 2009, he was inducted in to the Futures Industry Association Hall of Fame.

Having already conquered the business world, Viola’s lifelong dream of owning a sports team received new life after the idea of purchasing the Panthers was brought to his attention during a lunch with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Once the idea was out in the open, both Viola and Cifu were dead set on acquiring the South Florida franchise.

“We were very committed to get it done before the season started,” Viola said. “We were just relentless in our effort and we made it hard for the commissioner to say no.”

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