If you’re a Florida Panthers fan like I am, this is the time of year when you start to count the days until opening night and the beginning of another exciting NHL season.
We’ve already experienced the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas, the Draft in Pittsburgh, and the meat of the free agency period, and now our attention is fixed on Saturday, Oct. 13 when the Cats open up against the Lightning at the BankAtlantic Center.
It’s going to be a special night in Sunrise. Not only will our Panthers be taking on cross-state rival Tampa Bay, but we will also be unveiling the Southeast Division Championship banner that will hang in the rafters of the arena.
To me, this banner is significant of how far this franchise has come in the last couple years. With General Manager Dale Tallon leading our hockey operations department, we won our first ever Division Championship last season, took the Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils to seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and compiled the best crop of prospects in the entire NHL.
On Oct. 13, the growth of this franchise will commence again. Following another successful draft, the development of young players such as Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau, and the free agent signings or re-signings of Scott Clemmensen, Filip Kuba, Peter Mueller and George Parros, our fans should be extremely excited about the season ahead.
For me, it is very gratifying to hear about the high expectations from our supporters, and the incredible memories they have from last year’s return to the playoffs. When you have four sold out, electrifying postseason games at the BankAtlantic Center, it’s the type of feeling you want to experience over and over again.
I expect the feelings to be similar on opening night, when that banner is unveiled, and our Panthers take the ice in front of a sold out sea of red. It’ll be a nice reminder of how far we have come as an organization, but also a reminder of how much we still need to achieve.
We got a taste playoff hockey and now we want more. We all want more – our players, our coaches, our staff and our fans – we all want to get back to the postseason, to get back to that Game 7, and have it go our way, and see the victory rats rain down.
That’s why it's so easy to fall in love with our sports teams – because they give us those exciting feelings and unforgettable moments you just can’t get anywhere else. Our Panthers gave us some great ones last season, and now we’re just a few months from creating even more memories.
Thanks for reading, can’t wait to see everyone on Oct. 13, and go Panthers.