The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in the Miami metropolitan area.
It was founded in 1993 as an expansion team.
The Panthers play their home games at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida; they are the southernmost team in the NHL. The team has made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, in 1996; they lost to the Colorado Avalanche in four games.
The Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in 12 years in 2012, but they were eliminated in seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals by the New Jersey Devils (who eventually won the Eastern Conference championship that season).
On December 10, 1992, Blockbuster Video magnate Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise (the same day The Walt Disney Company earned the rights to start a team in Anaheim). At the time, Huizenga owned both the newly founded Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball (MLB) and a share of the National Football League (NHL)'s Miami Dolphins.
The entry fee was $50 million, but despite fellow Florida team Tampa Bay Lightning starting play the year before, the NHL did not consider it to be a case of territory infringement. Huizenga announced the team would play at the Miami Arena, sharing the building with the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s Miami Heat until a new arena was built.
Offices for the team were only established on June 1993, while Vice President of Business Operations Dean Jordan conceded that "none of the business people, myself included, knew anything about hockey."
On April 20, 1993, a press conference in Fort Lauderdale announced that the team would be named Florida Panthers with former New York Islanders general manager Bill Torrey as president and Bobby Clarke as general manager. The team is named for the Florida panther, an endangered species of large cat endemic to the nearby Everglades region.
Once the logos and uniforms were unveiled on June 15, 1993, the team also announced its financial commitment to the panther preservation cause. Huizenga held the Panthers trademark since 1991 when he purchased it from a group of Tampa investors who sought to create an MLB team on the Bay area.
The new franchise would join the NHL for participation in the 1993–94 season along with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
The Panthers' and Ducks' roster was filled up in both the expansion draft and the 1993 NHL Entry Draft in June 1993, hosted by Quebec City; that draft produced ten players who would eventually be a part of the 1996 Eastern Conference-winning team.
Inaugural season (1993-94)
Their first game was a 4–4 tie on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks while their first win was a 2–0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Thunderdome before a then-NHL record crowd of 27,227.
The Panthers had one of the most successful first seasons of any expansion team, finishing just two points below .500 and narrowly missing out on the final 1994 playoff spot in the East.
Their first-year success was attributed mainly to the "trap defense" that first-year coach Roger Neilson implemented. This conservative style was widely criticized by NHL teams; some even suggested that the Panthers were ruining the game at the time.
While the team executives expected the audience to consist of mostly "snowbird" Canadians living in Florida, the Floridians soon embraced the Panthers. Helped by Miami's other teams having middling performances, the club averaged 94% capacity at the 14,500-seat Miami Arena, and managed to sell 8,500 season tickets in 100 days.
After another close brush with the playoffs, finishing the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season again in ninth, Neilson was fired following an argument with Murray regarding Ed Jovanovski, whom the Panthers chose as the number one overall pick at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
Doug MacLean (who had been the team's player development director) was promoted to coach. The team then acquired Ray Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL trade deadline and looked toward the playoffs for the first time.
Run to the Stanley Cup Finals
A very unusual goal celebration developed in Miami during the 1995–96 season.
On the night of the Panthers' 1995–96 home opener, a rat scurried across the team's locker room. Scott Mellanby reacted by "one-timing" the rat against the wall, killing it. That night, he scored two goals which Vanbiesbrouck quipped was "a rat trick."
Two nights later, as the story found its way into the world, a few fans threw rubber rats on the ice in celebration of a goal. The rubber rat count went from 16 for the third home game to over 2,000 during the playoffs.
In the 1996 playoffs (as the fourth seed in the East), the Panthers faced the Boston Bruins in the first round and won in five games. Bill Lindsay's famous series-clinching goal is still a trademark image for the incredible run the third-year franchise went on.
The Panthers went on to upset the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in six games followed by the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in seven (with Tom Fitzgerald scoring what would end up being the game-winning goal) to reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche, another team making its first Finals appearance.
However, the Avalanche swept the Panthers in four-straight games. For his team's surprising success, Bryan Murray was honored as NHL Executive of the Year.
The Panthers would begin the next season with a 12–game unbeaten streak but faded in the second half of the season after trading second line center Stu Barnes. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Wayne Gretzky-led New York Rangers in five games.
The team would plummet in the 1997–98 season. After a 7–12–4 start, the Panthers fired Doug MacLean, replacing him for the season with General Manager Bryan Murray, but the change did not aid matters as Florida posted a franchise-worst 24–43–15 record, including a 15–game winless streak.
This season would also mark the end of goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck's time in Florida; in the midst of that streak, he was shelled by the Chicago Blackhawks and never played another game for the Panthers. He would later sign with the Flyers that off-season as a free agent.
The Panthers moved into the brand new National Car Rental Center (later Office Depot and BankAtlantic Center, now known as BB&T Center) in 1998.
In 1998–99, the Panthers acquired Pavel Bure (the "Russian Rocket"), in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks. They then reached the playoffs again in 1999–2000, losing in a first-round sweep to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
The team slumped in 2000–01 and afterward, Huizenga sold the Panthers to an ownership group led by Alan Cohen.
The following season (in 2001–02), the Panthers had their worst record ever. Bure struggled despite being reunited with his brother Valeri Bure and was traded to the Rangers at the 2002 trade deadline.
The Panthers then began eyeing defenceman Jay Bouwmeester who was widely tipped to be picked first overall pick at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, however, then-General Manager Rick Dudley sent Florida's first pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who selected winger Rick Nash and in return, the Panthers received the right to trade first round selections with the Blue Jackets in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, a right which was not exercised when the Panthers received the first overall selection in 2003 as well.
The Atlanta Thrashers (after picking goaltender Kari Lehtonen second overall), announced that the Panthers had given them two draft picks to guarantee that Bouwmeester would still be available for Florida's selection.
Bouwmeester was selected third overall by the Panthers. Then-Head Coach Mike Keenan, said "We shouldn’t have done that ... Jay would have been number-one if we'd kept that pick."
In 2003, the Panthers hosted the NHL All-Star Weekend in which the Western Conference earned a 6–5 victory after the first overtime shootout in All-Star history. The West overcame a four-goal outburst by Thrashers winger Dany Heatley, who took home MVP honors in his first All-Star appearance.
On June 23, 2006, the Panthers were again involved in a blockbuster trade with Vancouver, sending Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov) in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen.
This trade has been regarded by some as one of the worst trades in professional sports history; Luongo (who was at the prime of his career) was one of the League's top goaltenders while Bertuzzi played just a handful of games for Florida before getting injured.
Bertuzzi would later be traded to Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline for Shawn Matthias. Additionally, Auld ended up a poor replacement for Luongo and was ultimately let go after one season with the team.
On June 22, 2007, the Panthers were involved in yet another draft day deal involving a goaltender. The team acquired Tomas Vokoun from the Nashville Predators in exchange for three draft picks: a first-round pick in 2008, a second-round pick in 2008 and a conditional second round pick that can be used in 2007 or 2008. The move would eventually pay off when Vokoun was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.
On July 28, 2007, Florida unveiled their new jerseys to over 11,000 fans at the BankAtlantic Center during the first intermission of the Panthers' 1996 Reunion game. Star forwards Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss were both in full gear to help showcase the sweater changes.
The Panthers finished the 2008–09 season with a strong 41–30–11 record and 93 points, their second-highest finish in franchise history. Despite this, the Panthers missed the playoffs for an eighth-straight season, the then-longest streak in the NHL.
In November of 2009, Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel became the new majority owners.
On November 23, 2009, the Panthers made their third jersey, ridding red from the alternate jersey, replacing it with powder blue.
The Panthers missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive time in the 2009–10 season, making them the first team in NHL history to do so in one city.
On March 25, 2011, the Panthers lost to Buffalo 4–2, mathematically eliminating them from the post-season for an NHL record tenth consecutive season.
The Panthers management hired Dale Tallon as the team's new general manager on May 17, 2010.
He rebuilt the team with 2010 draft picks Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden as well as the acquisition of players including Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, Marty Reasoner, Ryan Carter and Sergei Samsonov.
However, all of the above-mentioned players were traded at the 2011 trade deadline or released during the 2011 off-season except for Gudbranson, Bjugstad and Howden. At the end of the 2010–11 season, only Stephen Weiss and David Booth remained from the pre-lockout era Panthers roster.
On June 1, 2011, Kevin Dineen (the head coach of the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Portland Pirates) was named to be the 11th head coach of the Panthers.
The team also rebranded their image, releasing a new home jersey, predominantly red with navy blue sleeves, and eliminating the navy blue piping on the road jersey; this new jersey replaced the navy blue one as the main home jersey.
The 2011 off-season saw the acquisitions of Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell.
After several more trades and over 300 man-games lost to injury throughout the season, the Panthers were able to finish first in the Southeast Division, marking the end of their record-setting decade-long post-season drought.
The Panthers won the first-ever division title in franchise history with a 4–1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on April 7, 2012. However, the Panthers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils, losing at home in double overtime of Game 7.
In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Panthers had an abysmal season. Unable to regain their form from last season, the Panthers suffered key injuries and fell back down into the basement with the worst record in the League.
In the 2013–14 season, the Panthers failed to gain any momentum and finished 29th out of 30 teams. The team then fired head coach Kevin Dineen and replaced him with Peter Horachek.
At the trade deadline, the Panthers reacquired Roberto Luongo from Vancouver. The Panthers would relieve Horachek of his duties at the end of the season, replacing him with former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Gerard Gallant. The team also received the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, using it to select Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
The Panthers' 2014–15 home opener on October 12, 2014 set a team record for the lowest attendance at a home opener, with only 11,419 spectators in attendance. The team's next game against the Ottawa Senators marked the team's lowest attendance ever, with only 7,311 in attendance.
Despite finishing with a record of 38–29–15, the Panthers missed the 2015 playoffs by seven points.
The Panthers announced that they signed a 13-year lease agreement with the county and would have a new logo and uniforms after the 2015–16 season. Their original logo had remained almost unchanged since their first season in 1993.
In the 2015–16 season, the team set a franchise record with a 12-game win streak. They also set a franchise record for most wins in a regular season with 47 wins and won their division for the second time in their existence.
However, the Panthers lost to the New York Islanders in six games in the first round of the playoffs. Head coach Gerard Gallant was nominated as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for NHL's coach of the year.
The 2016–17 season season began with the promotion of general manager Dave Tallon to an executive position within the organization and assistant GM Tom Rowe was promoted to general manager.
After a 11–10–1 start to the season, the Panthers fired head coach Gerard Gallant and GM Tom Rowe took over as interim head coach.
Season by Season Record
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Records as of the end of the 2010–11 season.
|2011–12||82||38||26||18||94||203||227||1st, Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 3–4 (Devils)|
|2012–13||48||15||27||6||36||112||171||5th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2013–14||82||29||45||8||66||196||268||7th, Atlantic||Did not qualify|
|2014–15||82||38||29||15||91||206||223||6th, Atlantic||Did not qualify|
|2015–16||82||47||26||9||103||239||203||1st, Atlantic||Lost in First Round, 2–4 (Islanders)|
|93||Bill Torrey||President &
|1993–2001||October 23, 2010|
|#||Number of coaches|
|W||Wins = 2 points|
|L||Losses = 0 points|
|T||Ties = 1 point|
|OT||Overtime/shootout losses = 1 point|
|†||Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder|
|*||Spent entire NHL coaching career with the Panthers|
|No.||Name||Appointment||Departure||Accomplishments and events during this term|
|1||Bobby Clarke||March 1, 1993||June 15, 1994|
|2||Bryan Murray||August 1, 1994||December 28, 2000||Appeared in Stanley Cup Finals in 1996|
|3||Bill Torrey||December 28, 2000||December 3, 2001|
|4||Chuck Fletcher (Interim)||December 3, 2001||May 10, 2002|
|5||Rick Dudley||May 10, 2002||May 24, 2004|
|6||Mike Keenan||May 26, 2004||September 3, 2006|
|7||Jacques Martin||September 3, 2006||June 1, 2009|
|8||Randy Sexton||October 2, 2009||May 17, 2010|
|9||Dale Tallon||May 17, 2010||May 16, 2016|
|10||Tom Rowe||May 16, 2016||–|
|No.||Number of general managers|
|–||Does not apply|
|Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category|
- Brian Skrudland, 1993–97
- Scott Mellanby, 1997–2001
- Pavel Bure & Paul Laus, 2001–02 (co-captains)
- Olli Jokinen, 2003–08
- Bryan McCabe, 2009–11
- Ed Jovanovski, 2013–14
- Willie Mitchell, 2014–16
- Derek MacKenzie, 2016–present
NHL All-Star Game selections
- Bob Kudelski, 1994
- John Vanbiesbrouck, 1994, 1996, 1997
- Scott Mellanby, 1996
- Robert Svehla, 1997
- Pavel Bure, 2000, 2001
- Viktor Kozlov, 2000
- Ray Whitney, 2000
- Sandis Ozolinsh, 2002, 2003
- Olli Jokinen, 2003
- Roberto Luongo, 2004, 2015, 2016
- Jay Bouwmeester, 2007, 2009
- Tomas Vokoun, 2008
- Brian Campbell, 2012
- Aaron Ekblad, 2015, 2016
- Jaromir Jagr, 2016
- Doug MacLean, 1996, 1997
- Gerard Gallant, 2016
Hockey Hall of Fame members
- Ed Belfour, G, 2006–2007, inducted 2011
- Pavel Bure, RW, 1999–2002, inducted 2012
- Dino Ciccarelli, RW, 1998–1999, inducted 2010
- Igor Larionov, C, 2000, inducted 2008
- Joe Nieuwendyk, C, 2005–2006, inducted 2011
- Roger Neilson, Coach, 1993–95, inducted 2002
- Bill Torrey, President and General Manager, 1993–2001, inducted 1995
First-round draft picks
- 1993: Rob Niedermayer (5th overall)
- 1994: Ed Jovanovski (1st overall)
- 1995: Radek Dvorak (10th overall)
- 1996: Marcus Nilson (20th overall)
- 1997: Mike Brown (20th overall)
- 1998: None
- 1999: Denis Shvidki (12th overall)
- 2000: None
- 2001: Stephen Weiss (4th overall) & Lukas Krajicek (24th overall)
- 2002: Jay Bouwmeester (3rd overall) & Petr Taticek (9th overall)
- 2003: Nathan Horton (3rd overall) & Anthony Stewart (25th overall)
- 2004: Rostislav Olesz (7th overall)
- 2005: Kenndal McArdle (20th overall)
- 2006: Michael Frolik (10th overall)
- 2007: Keaton Ellerby (10th overall)
- 2008: None
- 2009: Dmitri Kulikov (14th overall)
- 2010: Erik Gudbranson (3rd overall), Nick Bjugstad (19th overall) & Quinton Howden (25th overall)
- 2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall)
- 2012: Mike Matheson (23rd overall)
- 2013: Aleksander Barkov (2nd overall)
- 2014: Aaron Ekblad (1st overall)
- 2015: Lawson Crouse (11th overall)
- 2016: Henrik Borgstrom (23rd overall)
Franchise scoring leaders
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Panthers player
NHL awards and trophies
Prince of Wales Trophy
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
- Pavel Bure: 1999–2000, 2000–01
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
- Brian Campbell: 2011–12
Calder Memorial Trophy
- Jonathan Huberdeau: 2012–13
- Aaron Ekblad: 2014–15
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
- Jaromir Jagr: 2015–16
Franchise individual records
- Most goals in a season: Pavel Bure, 59 (2000–01)
- Most assists in a season: Viktor Kozlov, 53 (1999–2000)
- Most points in a season: Pavel Bure, 94 (1999–2000)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Peter Worrell, 354 (2001–02)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: Robert Svehla, 57 (1995–96)
- Most points in a season, rookie: Jesse Belanger, 50 (1993–94)
- Most wins in a season: Roberto Luongo, 35 (2005–06)
- Most saves in a shutout win: Craig Anderson, 53
- Most shutouts in a season: Roberto Luongo, 7 (2003–04)
- All-time leader in goals against average: John Vanbiesbrouck, 2.58
- All-time leader in shutouts: Roberto Luongo, 26
- All-time leader in games played by a goaltender: Roberto Luongo, 318
- All-time leader in wins by a goaltender: Roberto Luongo, 108