Whither Yon NHL Florida Panthers?

It’s time for me to weigh in on two topics. And, I’m going to go out on a limb here by publicly trashing the appropriate people. I made two posts on my Panthers List. I have edited them and am putting them here for the whole world. (It’d be better if comments were posted to the list, but you have to join to post.)


First, let’s start with the fact that sponsorships on some level are necessary for the survival of any sports team. Period. When they’re done right they make teams very, very wealthy: Yankees (MLB), Dallas (NFL), and so on. If you pull the sponsorships every single team will fall into the red, granted some teams might take a while, but it would happen — even in the NFL because sponsors buy TV commercials. So grant me this one statement.

Secondary and tertiary forms of income include gate receipts, parking[1], concessions[1], and shares of radio, TV, and program advertising plus of course merchandise licensing.

I wondered to my friends if next time someone took a dump in the WC and flushed[2] you got a recording “this flush sponsored by Tidy-Bowl. I was remarking at the last two games that the Panther games now remind me of the IHL Solar Bears games I used to attend. Or maybe not. At least those were fun.

Yeah, the ice-cats (or whatever they call the irritating cheerleaders this week) are sponsored, but I can live with that. The pillars that offer support to the vaulted ceiling are wrapped, the concrete steps have sponsors, the foyer entrances have sponsors, the walls have sponsors, the concrete pilings have sponsors, the concourses have sponsors, the concession stands have sponsors, the restrooms have sponsors, the suite level has sponsors, and, in fact, the only thing that is (as of yet) unsponsored are the actual urinals and toilet bowls themselves. And I do not object to any of this. It’s all fine. They have space and if they want to sell it, bless them to death. However, it is rather irritating to me that they even sold add space where the clock was. No, I don’t mean the game clock or the fancy new time clock. I’m talking that old-fashioned thing in each corner that used to tell you the time. Find a clock to tell the time anywhere in arena proper. I dare you. All gone, replaced by ads, the lot.

It’s not just the fans either. The press releases they send to the media often contain far more advertising than the actual content of the release. We get releases not only for the Panthers (and all their associated advertising) but we’re subjected to releases for the Pit Bulls (yawn), the Bank Atlantic Center, and Sunrise Sports and Entertainment. The last two are nothing but
advertising. I have a number of friends in the media, and the Panthers probably wouldn’t be happy if they knew how the barrage of releases was being received. It absolutely
affects their press coverage. Why? We all know it’s unprofessional, but they don’t. Many teams have a limited amount of advertising in their releases, but the Panthers have taken it to a whole new level.

They spent tons of money putting in fancy new scoreboards which can display full colour advertising. They spent money on an LED wraparound that can display advertising. That’s great. Hey guys? How about spend some money and fix the damned antiques that show the out-of-town scores? They’re missing so many letters it can be hard to figure out what they say. And of course, the ice has advertising — amazingly there’s still some blank space because the NHL regulates that. Happily, the NHL has continued to nix advertising on jerseys, though small shoulder or helmet ads would probably be okay in my book.

The Panthers have found a new source of income: they’ve sold their soul. I hope it was worth it. The Panthers have totally, completely, and unequivocally gone overboard.

The goals are sponsored, the penalty kills are sponsored, the power plays are sponsored, and even the season is sponsored. However, it is absolutely insane to sponsor ICING. Yes, every single icing is followed by the sponsor’s name. It’s fucking[3] bush-league is what it is. They’re so busy about the sponsorships THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN THE HOCKEY. Morons, the lot.

However, you have to realize they JUST DON’T CARE. They make more money on the other events — as they’ve said repeatedly in the media. The Panthers have become a novelty.

The Team, Arena, and everything else

Allan Cohen is a Bad Owner and, frankly, I’d prefer H. Wayne Huizinga. Yes, because although Wayne also treated the Panthers as a business[4] he did one thing Cohen didn’t do: he hired smart people to run the hockey side and left the alone and let them run it[5]. Cohen has hired hockey people to run it and then has his hands in everything and doesn’t let these people have any autonomy. He apparently lets his personal feelings interfere with the running of the business and hockey operations. Sadly, his feelings and common sense are often at odds.

This man hires Keenan and fires Keenan and then hires him back. Sounds like Steinbrenner and Billy Martin to me. Talk about mixed signals to the entire team. This is also the same guy who created a mini-nightmare for himself when he screwed over Bernie Kosar (who is well loved locally). The same guy who the papers pillory over his wishy-washy ways. So then he signs a deal with the Sun-Sentinel and so much for “fair and balanced” coverage — what we get is “fair-and-balanced-if-we-like-what-you-say” coverage. Sure, the Herald’s David J. Neal, the only competent guy to cover hockey down here is now off the beat[6] and the Herald’s paltry hockey coverage has gone from miniscule-but-at-least-competent to invisible-and-barely-on-topic. That may or may not be the fault of the Panthers (personally, I blame the ever-inept Herald) but it doesn’t help the situation with the fan base, that’s for sure.

I also think Mr. Cohen is a penny-pinching cheapskate but leave that out of this. On second thought, let’s not leave it out. He’s turned our Luongo situation into another Vanbiesbrouck situation and we all know how well that
worked out. Luongo will be gone. Mark my words on that. And it’ll be because of Mr. Cohen — not Keenan because he doesn’t control the purse strings. (There ya’ go folks. I’ve stood up for Keenan. Mark the historic day down on your calendar.)

The arena situation is still horrible. The fans are not happy before they get to their seats. We get indifferent people at the door who refuse to open the door before 6:05pm (6:35pm weekends) even if it’s pouring rain. Oh, yeah, thanks guys. We really appreciate that (that’s sarcasm, btw). We get no ushers in sections to keep people from walking in front of us, or worse we get ushers who haven’t been trained and make a bad situation worse. You have people at the concession stands who make the TSA look lightning fast. These same people have not been trained how to use their cash registers. Then they need a manager to open it up to fix their inevitable mistakes, and they can’t find one leaving the customer fuming. The programs are either everywhere or nowhere.

The store and concessions are embarrassingly overpriced. The concession prices are not, I understand, regulated by the team, but Pantherland is. So let me relate a story about the morons there. I asked about the Media Guide every game and why it’s December now and it’s still not on sale (they’re available because the team has copies) and finally I get sick of asking every game and ask Pantherland a supervisor who does know and get sent to guest services. Guess where guest services sends me? Back to Pantherland to ask the supervisor there.

So the typical fan has paid $8.50 for a turkey sandwich, $4.00 for a minute maid fruit punch, and $2.50 for a back of chip — that’s $16 to get a dinner — and spent 18 minutes in line doing it. This after trying to buy a souvenir for his/her son/daughter/niece/nephew. And that after standing outside while the gatekeepers decide standing outside for another 30 seconds is absolutely required because the minute hand hasn’t moved JUST YET. What kind of mood is this fan in?

So now the fan is in the arena and in a pretty bad mood, but trying to cheer up because just maybe we’ll get an exciting game. What we get is a team that came out of the gate strong and tried really hard and then all of a sudden said “oh, wait, we’re the Panthers, we’re supposed to suck” That’s not quite fair because I absolutely, positively, in no way whatsoever, fault the players on most nights. They come out, and with a few exceptions, they try hard. Sometimes it works, and mostly it doesn’t.

This same fan is subjected to blaring music thereby being forced to be silent the entire game or talk during the game because there’s no way to talk between plays because you can’t hear anything. (I must mention that during the 11-28 game they showed kids dancing on the screen much like they always do. I must mention it because I am not wanting to see little kids dancing to the tune of “I want to sex you up” — I am not old fashioned, but even I think that’s wildly inappropriate.)

To top this all off, South Florida has some very good sports fans. In fact, I hazard to guess there’s dozens. Unfortunately, the other 15,000 people are the problem. Arrive fashionably late, leave fashionably early. Walk to or from your seat during play, without any consideration[8] to your neighbours. They blather endlessly on during the game, which would be great if it was about hockey (any team) but I don’t care about: your mother’s operation, your wife’s dog, where you’re going on holiday. I also don’t want to hear your mobile phone ring every 90 seconds. And thank you for talking into it SO DAMNED LOUD you drown out the names of who just scored. So these are the fans you have rooting for our team.

I used to blame this on coaching and the GM always and without exception. It was a Murray problem, a Keenan disaster, or something like that. In a few rare instances it was a cancer in the locker room — Bure was a cancer, sorry but his attitude sucked. But you know, all the coaches and GM’s are gone now and we still suck. I’d love to blame it all on Keenan[9] but I can’t.

Over the years the Panthers have had good years, so-so years, but when did we really start to suck the big, fat, furry one? Oh, yeah, when the team was sold. I was happy it was sold. I state for the record that I was wrong and should have listened to the old adage “be careful what you wish for because you might get it.” I would trade Cohen for Huizinga any day.

The problems are Cohen, Keenan (because he is, after all, my whipping boy), and, sadly, us.

(Of course, I still support my team. Nothing here should be construed any other way.)

— Eric

1-26-05 Addendum: I have to comment more because there’s a whole thread about this on another message board which all started with a link to this entry. I am amused by some of the comments, but I am accused of being a Keenan hater, which I am. However, I have defended him a number of times as GM including in this very blog entry and a number of times on the Panthers List [10] as well. And, for the record, that picture of me is from the second Panthers season and is very old. And to sum it up, the sponsorship hell is getting worse and worse as the season goes on.

[1] in some arenas these are limited due to contractual obligations.
[2] one only hopes, god knows
[3] This is what we call a 100% warranted profanity. This profanity has been sponsored by the Florida Panthers and your local PTA
[4] after all, they are
[5] mostly — I grant that
[6] Now that’s an interesting story[7]
[7] Disclaimer: I like Mr. Neal and respect his opinions even though I sometimes disagree with him.
[8] I will not let people pass during play and make them stand in the middle of the row like the total asses they are. I give them a lecture to help them understand. If you’d ALL do that, it’d stop.
[9] God only know I would; I despise his management “style”; schoolyard bullies suck and that’s what Keenan is.

[10] Please join us!

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