We’re officially past the halfway mark of September, so you know what that means: NHL hockey! Well… kind of. Preseason action, at least. Several NHL teams dropped the puck on their preseason schedule last night, including the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators who played to a 5-3 Preds win in front of a raucous crowd of nearly 700 in Sunrise, Florida last night.
Wait…. 700? You mean, 7,000 right? Nope.
The official reported attendance at the BB&T Center last night was just 674. Check it out:
Yikes. I know this is preseason and all… but there are teams who get more people out for training camp scrimmages. This should be very concerning to not only the Panthers’ organization, but the entire NHL as well. It’s simply embarrassing to have so few fans at the game… I mean, just check out this photo:
Double yikes. Again, 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.
Hopefully the Panthers can get their act together this year and push for a playoff spot. They finished up the 2017-18 season with a strong push, but came up just short of catching the New Jersey Devils for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. With a healthy Roberto Luongo between the pipes and the addition of sniper Mike Hoffman up front, the Panthers look poised to break through in 2018-19, but don’t be surprised if Panthers fans take a “wait and see” approach before purchasing tickets.