Over the next few days I will be looking at the Pros and Cons of the Florida Panthers new division, the Atlantic. I will break this into three parts covering the different aspects the new division could affect, the fan perspective, the team perspective and the financial perspective. In today’s article I will look at the Pros and Cons from the fan perspective. As a reminder, the Atlantic Division teams are:
Looking at the division rivals, the first thing anyone may notice is that it has four of the NHL’s original six teams. This will give Florida fans a greater opportunity to attend games with some of the most historic and well-known teams in the league. Occasionally, this will also cause an opposing team fan attending a game in Sunrise to become a fan of the Panthers (trust me, it’s happened). Additionally, the Panthers went unbeaten in 2011-2012 against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, which shows that they can win games against their new opponents, sometimes easily. The Panthers also welcome the Red Wings back to the “Eastern Conference”, and honestly who doesn’t enjoy watching Pavel Datsyuk work his magic? No matter what team you cheer for, you’re definitely in for a good show when Detroit comes to town. I personally look forward to gaining more spotlight in Canada, which until our teams young players develop, could be a con. Once everything comes together and we begin winning on a nightly basis, more and more people will open their eyes and notice hockey in South Florida is the real deal.
Opposing teams fans! This has been a big issue for Florida in the past and South Florida fans have grown to hate it. Definitely would not be surprising if Florida’s President, Michael Yormark had a hand in Florida being placed with some of these teams. In the past Florida had marketed games to opposing teams fans, including at times deals that would include airfare and game ticket. If you can’t get your own fans in a seat, why not let the opposing teams fans in it right? The problem with this is, that it also discourages a lot of home town fans from attending, not wanting to feel as if they’re at an away game. Many times the opposing fans can be seen (and heard) on television chanting and cheering louder than Florida fans after goals by their team. This also causes fans of the Panthers to deal with the “haters” if you will, through message boards, social media or NHL.com comments sections, as being non-existent. Honestly, it will never end due to being a “small market”, but it could at least get better if it weren’t for the added help of additional games against teams with very large fan bases.
Maybe Florida should follow in the footsteps of the Nashville Predators and require the purchase of another ticket before “unlocking” the ability to purchase tickets for a specific game. Most notably late December, around Christmas and New Years Eve, with games against the New York Rangers, Maple Leafs and Canadiens.