We’re officially past the quarter mark of the NHL season and, surprise, surprise, the Florida Panthers appear to be out of the playoff picture entirely… yet again. The hard luck southern franchise was expected to take a step forward this season narrowly missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2017-18, but currently sit five points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the final Wild Card playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Panthers get hot, go on a streak and end up back in the hunt, but give this team’s track record it’s probably not a safe bet. Veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo has been up and down with injuries the past two seasons and as Luongo goes, so to do the Panthers.
So, with the team struggling and seemingly out of the race already, you can’t blame fans for staying home. But tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche is any indication, fan support is at an all time low for the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida.
Check out this photo of the crowd from Twitter user Mickey Doft:
Yikes… that’s ugly. This is during the first period of play… not pregame and not intermission…
I’ve seen lines to the Men’s Room that had more fans in it…
This is NOT a good look for the Panthers and the NHL. Truth be told though, this is nothing new for the Panthers. The hard luck sun belt franchise has struggled for over two decades now to attract a regular crowd. Meanwhile, just up the road in Tampa Bay, the Tampa Bay Lightning have established strong roots in the region and do very well in the box office. Most fans and analysts attribute this mostly to the Lightning’s winning culture, however. The Lightning organization has won a Stanley Cup championship in its history and is a perennial playoff contender. Meanwhile, the Panthers have historically languished in the NHL’s basement, earning a playoff spot just five times in their 25 year history. That’s simply not good enough of a record to bring in fans. Especially in the Miami market where fans have plenty of sports options including the Miami Dolphins of the NFL, Miami Marlins of the MLB and the Miami Heat of the NBA.