For Panthers new chairman, principal owner and governor Vinnie Viola, it is about more than just owning a professional sports team. For Vinnie, it’s about family and the fans in the community.
Viola and his wife, Teresa have been married for 30 years and have three sons: John, Michael and Travis. He spoke about the importance of family in his life and ultimately how they influenced him to become an owner.
“I have to start by thanking my wife Teresa because she stood by me through everything I thought, envisioned and tried to create for 31 years,” said Viola. She’s been my best friend and the toughest individual I’ve ever met in my life.”
Viola’s business partner Doug Cifu also took the time to express the importance his family had throughout his career to get to where he is today.
“I want to thank my wife and family. Melissa Cifu, my wife, partner, my best friend and a wonderful supporter. If it wasn’t for Melissa, I probably wouldn’t be here and we may not have had this day,” said Cifu. “My two wonderful children: Rachel and Daniel, my brothers: David, John and nephew James.”
Not only does Viola think family is an integral part of life but also spoke about the great and indispensable role fans have in contributing to a team’s success.
“I want us to be a team that is completely committed to winning the right way for the community that it represents,” said Viola. “The community is the families that make up the team, the surrounding coverage of the team and the fan base.”
Both men praised the South Florida community and Panther fans for the commitment to the team for the past 20 years and promised they would help provide the resources to bring success back to the team.
“It’s about the players and fans and our service to those two respective groups that will determine our success,” said Viola.
Cifu expressed his gratitude towards the fans as soon as he walked up to the podium expressing his great interest in making sure the fans are happy.
“I just want to thank you, all of the Panther fans,” said Cifu. “You’ve been an incredible supportive group for many, many years here. Vinnie and I really take this responsibility very seriously and we will do our best to never disappoint you.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also spoke about the Panther fan base stating he believes South Florida has a strong core of hockey fans.
“This team, looking back, which we will do briefly for a second, had a ten-year drought in the playoffs,” said Bettman. “And if you look at the core fan base that stood by this team, that continue to make this team viable in this market, it’s pretty impressive.”
Bettman stated he believes the foundation of the franchise is strong and growing each year. With the resources that the new ownership has promised to Dale Tallon, Bettman believes the team is destined to win.
“When you devote the resources, I think the foundation that this club has will only grow and be built upon,” said Bettman. “All indications are that the future will be exceedingly bright.”
Viola and Cifu remained humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the Panther organization and praised the management in Kevin Dineen and Dale Tallon, fans and players.
“We don’t really own anything,” said Viola. “The players sweat, sacrifice their health in later years, to do well on the ice to provide the right feeling and connection to the fans.”
Viola summed up his message to the local media and organization with the theme of family once again.
“It begins and ends with the family,” said Viola.
With the new regular season approaching, the Panthers organization is excited to get back to playing the game. With new players, new ownership and a 20th anniversary celebration of the team, fans can look forward to watching the Panther family grow and succeed.