| Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on FloridaPanthers.com for a third season, giving the point of view on the Cats from a serious, die-hard fan’s perspective in his own blog titled Peeke's Points (formerly YourBLOG).
A Michigan native who’s played hockey (admittedly average at best) most of his life, Cliff grew up watching Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium. His allegiance changed to the Panthers the moment it was announced South Florida would have a team.
Cliff has played in adult leagues at IncredibleIce and his oldest son (age 27) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 11) is a member of the Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team. Peeke's Points Archive
At some point down the road in this difficult season, last night’s victory over Colorado will be forgotten…it will just be a recorded win. Had we lost in overtime or the shootout, the game would have represented a defining moment in the season sinking into the abyss. We were that close to a doomed season.
You should see the texts I received from friends after Colorado scored twice to tie the game in the final minute…disturbing but realistic comments. At the arena, fans were beyond stunned. I had trouble keeping down the hot dog I consumed in the first period. Another meltdown had just occurred and frustrations were flying at the highest levels. I am not a fan of shootouts, but this was one exception. We re-gained the point we gave away as Weiss scored and Clemmensen closed the door.
So what’s wrong with this team??? I am asked that question so often. Seems like I am always trying come to grips with this team this time of the year…every year. The inability to put teams away and safely secure a lead is most disturbing. The defensive shell posture does not work. I would rather see us giving up a breakaway while being offensive holding a lead, than laying back and stacking up in front of our net in protection mode. A disaster was really averted last night.TOWN HALL MEETING
…A huge bright spot in this organization is our new ownership. If Stu Siegel and Cliff Viner keep up this “high touch” presence, communicating well to the fan base, and making themselves accessible, us fans will have a connection to ownership unlike any time in the past. If they keep up their hands-on guidance of this team, we will be in great shape for years to come. It’s absolutely refreshing to have our owners display their genuine, passionate concern toward the success of this team. No doubt, success in the standings translate to selling more tickets…so it would seem a no-brainer. But I feel as though we are in much better hands with Stu and Cliff than if we were owned by some conglomerate or an owner that treated the team as a hobby.
As predicted, fans expressed their frustrations. If you scroll down, you will see a blog entry from yesterday that did not meet the deadline. I include it in today’s entry because it reflects my mood as well as many, many fellow Panther fans that I hear from quite often. It was easy to predict the fan’s pervasive mindset going into the Town Hall event. Here’s what I witnessed last night…fans expressed their frustration, the owners set the groundwork for the future, and fans recognized that the new owners can not change the past, but can alter the future. Last night, a clear line was drawn between past and future…fans recognize that we now “move forward” and that the sins of the past are not of Stu and Cliff’s making. You got the strong sense that they are not at all pleased with the team hovering in the basement of the NHL. You get the sense they are trying desperately to figure out what to do, understanding the unique constraints of the salary cap and contracts they inherited. I, for one, feel so much better about this organization from an ownership and management standpoint, than ever. I also feel it’s a great move to have hockey operations reporting directly to Michael Yormark. I always felt, in the past, that there was a “divide” between hockey operations and marketing. No longer.
Then we leave the meeting, go to our seats, and watch the Panthers dominate Colorado throughout most of the game. Each time Colorado tries to close the gap, we answer back and keep two goal margins. Then, when things appear safe, we have the final minute collapse. Even in my fury, I felt bad for Stu and Cliff, believing that we all deserve better than this. What’s good to know is that they share the exact emotions we all did, and what’s better to know is this…they will do something about it. So, good luck to you both. Fans appear to be solidly behind you, and we are ever so hopeful that you can instill the attitude, spirit, and drive within the players and the whole organization to reach very lofty goals.
Let’s be realistic, last night’s win should not mask serious underlying problems. Let’s fix them quickly so we don’t have to avert disasters like this again. Comments are always appreciated, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKWARD STEPS (12/02)
In a way, I feel bad for our new owners, Stu Siegel and Cliff Viner. After the ownership transition took place, the team went on a hot streak and took ONE STEP FORWARD.
On November 22nd, after the successful road trip, I’m talking up Panther hockey big time. Back to reading every NHL article, back listening to NHL XM, back to being fired up about this season. Then TWO STEPS BACKWARD…and it’s been ugly in the process. Stu and Cliff, in preparation for tonight’s Town Hall Meeting, were probably hoping the mood of the fan base would be positive, and instead will be met by a group of highly aggravated and angry fans. And the following are five reasons why…
• 11/23 Pittsburgh…new 3rd uniform unveiled and a major let-down as we blow a two goal lead and lose in OT.
• 11/25 NY Rangers…I can’t recall an uglier first two periods of hockey (mostly the whole game). I’m not sure how I would feel if this were my first NHL game attended. We lose in a shootout.
• 11/27 Toronto…As ugly as it gets. We appear to have total command, only to collapse big time. Ex-Panther and Keenan cast-off, Niklas Hagman, scores two, including game-winner. I’m still cleaning up the vomit.
• 11/28 at Nashville…This no-name squad knows how to play team hockey. I just never felt we were in the game, and of course we lost.
• 11/30 at Atlanta…This beats the Toronto “as ugly as it gets award”. A NEW LOW. I like Ballard, he’s a warrior, so it’s hard to knock him…but that stick swing on Vokoun was way out there. The only positive to that incident is that it will get played repeatedly by every youth hockey coach on how to handle adversity…what not to do. Then, as time is winding down, and I’m almost satisfied with a point, Ballard does not tie up the Thrasher forward with five seconds left and allows him to get a shot off…a gut-wrenching game-winner. I so badly wanted to take my stick, go outside, and slam it against the post of our net in the driveway. Thankfully, I held off, mostly because of the Ballard “incident”.
I have run out of words to express my frustration. VanMurph’s blog entry did a great job in describing what loyal fans are feeling. Here we are, again, 26th in the league winning just 10 times out of 26 games…a 38% win ratio. We take a step forward, then two or three backwards. This team does not have the natural talent to take any shifts off, yet we do. So, tonight, Craig Anderson’s Avalanche comes in to our building. Will the LOW’s continue and we once again witness an ex-Panther shine against us, or do we show up, treat the game like it’s a freaking playoff, and skate off victorious.
The timing of the Town Hall meeting tonight arrives at an interesting time. We are angry fans again, and not at all pleased that we have to be this way. That was a terrible five-game stretch. Does this team have it in them to reel off five straight victories and help us forget the stench? We’ll see…starting tonight.
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