Shortly after dusk Saturday evening – while a mime and magician entertained and orchids on linen tablecloths colored in honeydew and hydrangea stretched toward a tented ceiling – the Panthers and captain Olli Jokinen set a new standard of corporate relations in professional sports.
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Jokinen and his wife, Katerina, not only hosted an exclusive event for the team’s Pillar Partners, but in an unprecedented level of player access, they opened their beautiful Heron Bay home to the partners.
With their pool area transformed by a huge, air-conditioned tent, the Jokinens welcomed 85 guests and several Panther teammates to their home for an evening of cocktails, dinner, hockey talk and networking.
“It’s a very unique evening, but, frankly, I’m not surprised with the Panthers,” said Bill Marshall, president of Team Marketing and representing Pillar Partner ADT. “Alan Cohen is a first class owner, Michael Yormark is a first class president and Olli is a first class captain.”
Said Jarett Levan, CEO of Pillar Partner BankAtlantic, “I don’t think you can over-emphasis the spirit of partnership the Panthers have with their sponsors.”
The Jokinens welcomed each guest at the front door of their home before taking a picture with them. The guests then walked through the home and into the pool area accented with white lights where servers offered red or white wine and appetizers throughout the evening. The guests dined on grilled prawns, pistachio-crusted grouper, beef tenderloin and pork arepas.
The elegant affair was catered by Grapevine Gourmet, who earned rave reviews for it's remarkable service and menu.
“We wanted our sponsors to feel like part of our family and Olli and Katerina have helped us to do that by being phenomenal hosts in opening their beautiful home to all of our guests,” Yormark said. “They couldn’t have been more gracious.”
Both Olli and Katerina, attired in black, said the idea of such an innovative event came from the Panthers.
“The Panthers have great ideas, and when they asked me about this I thought it would be great,” Olli said. “I think it’s something that’s very rare, but I also want to do all I can to make this franchise better.
“This is a partnership. The sponsors are some of the biggest supporters of the team, and it’s a good thing for them to get to know the players and the players to get to know them.”
Katerina shared her husband’s enthusiasm for hosting the party.
“We talked about it and we thought it was would be wonderful,” she said. “We love the Panthers, so why wouldn’t we? We were excited.”
Leon Garza, vice president and general manager of Metro PCS, said; “It’s quite a special event and it’s a great opportunity to network with the who’s who of South Florida.”
Panther defenseman Mike Van Ryn, who was joined at the party by Panthers Tomas Vokoun, Ruslan Salei, Nathan Horton and Jozef Stumpel, applauded his teammate.
“I’ve never heard of something like this in sports,” Van Ryn said. “It’s great for the team and great for the sponsors, and I think it’s fantastic what Olli and Katerina have done here this evening.”
Jim Repp of Pillar Partner AvMed said, “I thought it was very interesting that a player would be willing to open his home up like this. I think it says a great deal about the partnership the team and players have with the sponsors.”