SUNRISE, Fla. - With Kool and the Gang's 1970's hit "Jungle Boogie" blasting from the arena's speakers, Florida Panthers head coach Bob "The Boogie Man" Boughner was introduced to a large, passionate group of fans during a special Summer Summit at the BB&T Center on Thursday.
"You can tell there's a ton of passion here," said Boughner, the 15th coach in franchise history. "I'm excited. It's a challenge. I love that some of these fans have been here since Day 1 and are dying to see a team that goes out there and competes and does it the right way.
"That's the feel I got after listening to all of the comments and questions tonight. These fans love physicality, they love being an aggressive team, a fore-checking team, and that's the kind of team I coach. I think it'll be a good match."
Joining Boughner on stage, much to the crowd's delight, was Panthers General Manager & President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon and President & CEO Matthew Caldwell. The trio spent the evening fielding questions from fans, both in person and via Twitter, with topics ranging from Boughner's coaching philosophy to Tallon's vision for the future.
"I like our players, I like our team, I like our coaching staff," Tallon said. "We've got three months before we play again. We're going to be in good shape. I like what's going on this week [at development camp], the kid's we've got; some of them are going to play on our team. That's how good they are. In free agency we'll get whatever pieces we have to get that'll make us better. I think we're going to be really good for a long time."
Prior to the Q&A session, fans gathered on the JetBlue Tarmac, where they were able to enjoy food trucks, including Kings of Racks BBQ, Hoffman's Chocolates, El Orgullo Latino and Ms. Cheezious, in addition to inflatables and games.
At least 900 fans attended the event.
"For the middle of the summer, when hockey's not on the mind of people, to have them all come out and see our coach, this fan base is awesome," Caldwell said. "It's alive and well and it's growing. We still have a long way to go, but it's going to get there."
In addition to the summit, season ticket holders were given the opportunity to meet and greet with all 34 of this week's development camp attendees, who spent an hour signing autographs, snapping photographs and playing games with fans outside the arena.
"This is really fun," said Cindy Hinds, a longtime season ticket holder from Pembroke Pines. "It's great to see the guys on the other side of the glass. We usually only see them when they're in their gear. I like all the guys, there's too many to choose from."
In the end, the players might have enjoyed the event more than the fans.
"It's good to finally meet some of the fans," said Owen Tippett, who the Panthers selected with the 10th overall pick at the 2017 NHL Draft. "It's great because these are the ones that come to pretty much every game. For the fans that couldn't' make it today, I'm definitely excited to meet you guys too."