The ice may have disappeared from the bowl of the BB&T Center during the summer, but hockey has not. Throughout the course of the summer, the Florida Panthers hosted 2,000 kids from camps stretching from Miami Beach to the city of Jupiter at the BB&T Center through their Summer Street Cats program.
Street Cats is currently the only street hockey program in the National Hockey League to be run out of a NHL arena for the duration of the summer. The program provides campers the unique opportunity to tour the arena and learn the basic rules and fundamentals of hockey through a series of street hockey clinics.
“The program is about introducing the youth of South Florida to the sport of hockey,” said Director of Community Relations and Grassroots Marketing John Colombo. “We want the kids to leave learning a bit more about the importance of teamwork and exercise, all while learning about their home team.”
Included in the tour of the BB&T Center was a tour of the Panthers’ Den of Honor, premium seating areas, a presentation from the ice technicians, and Panthers’ locker room. Additionally, campers were joined by Fox Sports Florida Television Analyst Randy Moller in the Panthers’ locker room for a question and answer session.
“Not many kids get the opportunity to visit a world-class facility like the BB&T Center,” said Moller. “They get a sense of what it takes to actually run the building and run a professional hockey team, the work that goes in and the pride as well.”
Six camps participated in the Summer Street Cats program's inugaural year in 2012. The following year, the program grew to 1,100 participants from 22 camps. This summer, the program nearly doubled its participation by hosting 2,000 campers from 40 camps.
“The program started from a very humble beginning and seeing it grow into 40 camps goes to show that the community has enjoyed it and have told others about the experience,” said Colombo. “The Panthers are committed to South Florida and especially the youth of South Florida. It’s a great chance to give all those campers the opportunity to come out to the BB&T Center and learn the game of hockey in safe and fun environment all while getting a once in a lifetime experience at an NHL arena.”
The Street Cats program is one of many avenues in which the Panthers organization continues to reach out to the youth of South Florida. “One of our main priorities here is our commitment to the community and being part of this community in all endeavors,” said Moller. “Our footprint in the community has always been a priority, but under the leadership of Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, we plan to be much more active, involved, supportive, and visible in the community.”