In any professional sport over the course of a season teams have defining moments that separate the winners from the rest of the league. During the last couple of months we have highlighted nine of these moments from the Florida Panthers 2011-2012 season. Now, after over a month of waiting, it is finally time for us to reveal the number one moment on our countdown. Trust us when we say that this is a moment that will go down as one of the best in franchise history, especially considering the fact that all of the so called “hockey experts” wrote off the Panthers before the season even began.
#1 – SouthEast Champs (April 7th, 2012)
Leave it to the Panthers to wait until the final game of 2012 to have one of the most important season defining moments in franchise history. Florida held the number one spot in the SouthEast division for the majority of the season until Washington forced them into a must win situation in game number 82 against the Carolina Hurricanes. If Carolina wins the Cats drop out of the top spot in the SE, lose home ice advantage for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and fail to secure a divisional title that they owned for most of the 2011-2012 season. Thankfully Florida finished the year strong by defeating the Hurricanes 4-1 and winning their first ever divisional championship.
While the win was great the post-game celebration was even greater, especially for the diehard fans. The cheering section that has gathered in front of Pantherland since 2007 grew larger than ever before, no matter how hard Michael Yormark and his Club Red goons, aka security personnel, tried to stop it. On that night Panthers fans were finally able to speak the words “playoff hockey” inside the BankAtlantic Center for the first time in over a decade. Most importantly, during that glorious night, the fans were finally able to put the past 12 heart breaking years behind them.
Clearly everyone has their own favorite moment from the 2011-2012 season, including our good friend Donny Rivette, founder of Litter Box Cats. We reached out to Donny and asked him to share his most memorable moment from last year and this is what he had to say.
“What stands out to me? Simple: October 15, around 6 p.m, watching fans file in to the newly en-reddened BankAtlantic Center for the first home game of the 2011-12 campaign. Regardless of an existing 1-1 record, surprising to no one, given the previous opponents were the Islanders and Penguins. What cemented the impression was a sense of newfound excitement and reset-button enthusiasm which had been missing in previous openers. Before it was “here we go again; hope for the best but unquestionably ready for yet another pointless sweater giveaway in early April”. The undeniable sign of a True, though realistic fan, but this home opener had hallmarks of something far different. Nothing clear enough to establish as a physical manifestation of Victory By Committee, but anyone in the building that night should stand by the stereotype of a Community Engaged. This was a Big Ticket.”
“Unquestionably, more than a few folks morphed from “I attended due to boredom and/or a free ticket” to “I’m sold on this because it’s solid entertainment,” which was evident just in walking through the concourses as the game went on. The Panthers hadn’t yet won 2 games and word began to carry: this is where the action is. I’ve never personally met a larger number of admitted non-hockey fans before that night who changed their collective tune within an hour, and all were beside themselves with praise for a sport they previously gave so little attention to. A terrific night which set the stage for all which followed.”
We hope that our readers enjoyed Sunshine State Hockey’s countdown of the top 10 moments of Florida’s 2011-2012 season. This year was truly one to remember for Panthers fans everywhere. Hopefully the National Hockey League and its players association can reach a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the September 15th deadline so we do not have to wait any longer for another memorable hockey season in South Florida.
Finally we would like to thank Donny Rivette from Litter Box Cats for his great input. We also want to remind our readers one final time to click through the links below for the full experience of moment #1.
Good morning hockey fans. We wanted to provide a brief update about the status of our fantasy hockey league, the SSHL. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the National Hockey League’s 2012-2013 season the Sunshine State Hockey League will be canceled for 2012-2013. We will however host a special playoff edition of the SSHL as long as there is not a full season lockout in the NHL.
More details will be released on March 1st, 2013.
Because of a strong 2011-2012 season the Florida Panthers find themselves in unfamiliar territory at this year’s National Hockey League entry draft, at the back of the room. The Panthers will select 23rd overall in round one when the draft begins tonight from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, unless GM Dale Tallon decides to make a trade between now and then. No matter what happens Tallon and Co. must choose carefully when using their picks, especially in a draft that is not considered “deep” in terms of NHL ready talent. With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the best players available for the Cats later in the first round as well as other important information for tonight in our Panthers draft preview.
The Florida Panthers are hosting official watch parties for the 2012 NHL entry draft at the Duffy’s in Fort. Lauderdale and the Duffy’s in Coconut Creek. Erik Gudbranson will be making an appearance at the watch party in Fort. Lauderdale. The addresses for both locations are:
Duffy’s Fort. Lauderdale
1804 Harbor Shops Road
Fort. Lauderdale, FL, 33316
Duffy’s Coconut Creek
4800 W. Hillsboro Blvd.
Coconut Creek, FL, 33073
Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat.
Florida currently holds a total of five picks for this weekend’s entry draft. We expect Tallon to secure a few more but for now here is what the Panthers have to work with.
Round 1: 23rd overall
Round 2: 53rd overall
Round 3: 84th overall
Round 4: 114th overall
Round 6: 174th overall
Walking up the the podium to make a top 5 selection at an entry draft is easy. It takes a skilled general manager and scouting staff to find a good player later in the first round and beyond. The Panthers will need Tallon and his group of scouts to be at their best when deciding on who to choose with the draft picks listed above. Here are a couple of names that Cats fans might hear called by their team during round one tonight.
1. Brady Skjei, D, USHL
2. Martin Frk, RW, QMJHL
3. Mike Winther, C, WHL
4. Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW, CCHA
5. Slater Koekkoek, D, OHL
6. Scott Kosmachuk, RW, OHL
7. Tanner Pearson, LW, OHL
Trades are a huge part of the NHL entry draft, especially since all 30 general managers are in one room. The only major rumor involving the Florida Panthers thus far has to do with a former goaltender possibly looking to come “home”. TSN reported yesterday that there are two known teams involved in trade talks with the Vancouver Canucks for netminder Roberto Luongo, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Panthers. Darren Dreger, TSN’s hockey insider, thinks that Florida is a “long shot” as a destination for Luongo, but only time will tell for sure. Either way it is always interesting to hear the trade rumors on draft day, especially those that include the Florida Panthers.
For even more great coverage of the 2012 National Hockey League entry draft click through the following links.
Be sure to tune in to the 2012 NHL entry draft tonight beginning at 7 PM EST on the NBC Sports Network to see who the Florida Panthers select with their 23rd overall pick.