Being a fan of the Florida Panthers has had its ups and downs, and thankfully as of late the fan base can be excited about the ups. I began following the Florida Panthers at a young age in 1993, but really didn’t become the hardcore fan I am today until they moved out of Miami and into Sunrise in 1998. A couple of years after that I bought my first season ticket and I have been a proud season ticket holder ever since.
Being a fan of the Florida Panthers has been tough over the last nine years. The team has failed to make the playoffs during all the years I have been a season ticket holder and I will be the first to admit that it has been very hard to swallow. The hardest year to grasp was the past season. The Panthers were playing their best hockey since their last trip to the playoffs in 2000, but they still managed to miss out on the post season fun by one point.
I will say that I did take a lot of positives out of that season, being a Panthers fan forces you to take the little things as positives most of the time. David Booth had a breakout year and became the “face of the franchise”. Keith Ballard displayed the art of the hip check on a nightly bases inside the BankAtlantic Center, adding a physical aspect to a Panthers system that was lacking it. Michael Frolik proved that the Florida Panthers still knew how to draft. And most importantly, when the Panthers were winning they proved that people in South Florida still cared about the team.
The 2009-2010 season started with a big high when the Panthers beat the Blackhawks in the first game of the Helsinki series, but the high disappeared just as fast as the Panthers just couldn’t win after that game. The Panthers managed to pull it together and currently sit in a tie for 8th place with the New York Rangers. What does this mean? It means that we can expect a dog fight the rest of the year for a playoff spot. This Panthers fan believes though that this is the year for the Panthers to break their playoff curse and frustrate the top teams in the East as they did in 1996.
So the question to be answered is “what does it mean to be a Panthers fan?” For this fan it means hope. After years of bad hockey in Sunrise the Panthers seem to be finally coming around. Past draft picks are finally coming into their own, veteran players are playing the way they are suppose to, and the team finally seems to be doing most of the little things right to keep them in each game until the end. The Florida Panthers have silently built themselves a gritty, in your face team that gets on the nerves of the opposing teams, and this Panthers fan couldn’t be happier.
- Marc from Sunshine State Hockey
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