National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly recently took some time to answer a few questions for FloridaPanthers.com.
FloridaPanthers.com: You caught a Panthers home game before the regular season ended. Can you share some thoughts? Bill Daly:
I recently attended a Panthers-Penguins game at the BankAtlantic Center with my wife and young son. It was a fantastic experience. There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the building and every building staff member with whom we came into contact was friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. It was really a fan friendly environment. FP.com: The Panthers have been out of the playoffs for quite awhile, but the fans still come out with consistency, and they seem to enjoy the experience at the BankAtlantic Center, what are your thoughts on that?BD:
It’s been a tough run on the ice for the Panthers in recent years, no doubt, but I get a sense that the fan base has really bought into the longer term vision and plan that this franchise has implemented this past season. The team has given itself a lot of flexibility and options going into the offseason and into next season, and there is nothing more valuable than flexibility under our current collective bargaining agreement. FP.com: Despite missing the playoffs this season, GM Dale Tallon looks like he has a plan for this team and they are headed in the right direction. Do you think Dale can turn the franchise into a consistent playoff team and Stanley Cup contender? BD:
Dale Tallon has established himself as a premiere talent evaluator in this League. He has done a lot of good things already in the short time he has been in South Florida and I have every confidence that he will be successful in building this team into a consistently competitive challenger for the Stanley Cup.FP.com: Hockey isn’t the biggest fish in town. South Florida is a football market and the Heat’s big three make a lot of headlines, but youth hockey continues to grow down here and we’ve seen before that this can be an electric hockey market. Talk about what you see the future holding for hockey in South Florida, both at the youth and NHL level?BD:
I was particularly impressed on my recent visit with learning about the tremendous growth and development of youth hockey in South Florida, and particularly the relative strength and number of local high school programs. It is obviously a great credit to the Panthers organization for reaching out and fostering this growth, but it is also a tremendous testament to the future of hockey in South Florida. The interest and participation in hockey fuels growth and increased depth at the national level and ultimately ensures to the long-term benefit of the National Hockey League as well. FP.com: Could you see the Panthers ever playing in or hosting a Winter Classic? BD:
I would say that short to medium term hopes about one-day hosting a Winter Classic may be a bit on the ambitious side. One of the things that makes the Winter Classic so special is its "outdoor" nature and qualities, and while we would love to expand the physical reach of the event, there remain practical realities that make a South Florida game difficult. Having said that, and especially given the bright future I think this franchise and its fans can expect on the ice, I wouldn't at all be surprised if we saw the Panthers featured in a Winter Classic game in the not too distant future. FP.com: On the business and marketing side, the Panthers are always pushing the envelope. Led by team President Michael Yormark, are they one of the most creative in the industry? BD:
What I find really remarkable about the Panthers' team is that despite its recent difficulties on the ice, the organization is constantly ahead of the curve in reaching out to and communicating with its fan base, as well as engaging and activating new business partners. There's a real momentum and excitement that is going to serve this team well over the long haul and, certainly, Michael Yormark has a lot to do with that.
FP.com: From an ownership standpoint, Cliff Viner has been leading the club solely only for the last 11 months or so. In that time he’s made a significant hire in Dale Tallon, and set a new standard for corporate citizenship and community outreach. From the NHL level, can you see the impact Cliff has had?BD:
|General Partner Cliff Viner, GM Dale Tallon and Alternate Governor Bill Torrey (Eliot Schechter) |
I can't say enough about what Cliff Viner has meant, not only to this franchise, but to its role and participation in the National Hockey League. He is an interested, engaged and committed owner and that is what every professional sports league yearns for and aspires to. Panthers fans can certainly feel comfortable with their team's representation at the National Hockey League level.FP.com: Overall, is there another team in the NHL, or pro sports, that would act as a suitable case study for the type of success the Panthers can achieve and should strive for?BD:
I think we have a number of prototypical examples of what Clubs -- when run the right way and doing the right things -- can achieve in a relatively short period of time. Look no further than the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks -- all three franchises were down and out both going into and coming out of our labor dispute in 2004-05. All three franchises have not only been able to turn the corner both on the ice and in their respective businesses, they are all performing at the top of the League and consistently competing for Stanley Cups. That's what I think this franchise and its fans have in store for it.