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Every year I find myself sitting in my office in mid-August, wondering how all those offseason months just flew by. Because here we are, three weeks from the start of training camp and just over a month from our trip to Helsinki and the start of the 2009-10 NHL season.
It’s amazing when I think about how quickly the offseason has gone by. From the end of our season, to the NHL Entry Draft, to free agency to now, there has been a whirlwind of action. And there is a lot more work to do as we countdown the 52 days to Opening Night 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center.
On the hockey side, David Booth just finished up at the Team USA Olympic camp, where he continued to establish himself as one of America’s top forwards heading into the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Re-signing David to a long-term contract was one of the highlights of the summer for us, as we look at him as one of the emerging faces of our franchise. Meanwhile, Tomas Vokoun has been in town the last few weeks working out and preparing for the start of training camp, while many of our players will start arriving next week for unofficial skates at the new facility at incredible
ICE in Coral Springs.
Speaking of incredible
ICE, if you haven’t had a chance to go over there since the new rink opened up, I strongly urge you to check it out. In a word, it’s spectacular. And from what I’ve heard, the ice quality is as good as any facility in the country.
Having spoken to assistant GM Randy Sexton and head coach Pete DeBoer about it, I know they were impressed by the top-notch expansion. That said, I think they are even more excited about our team. I know that Pete feels like we are a better team now than we were last April. And that we may not be a team of stars, but we’ll be a deep team that can roll four lines and rely on speed, grit, conditioning and skill to make it tough on our opponents.
Kudos to Randy and his staff for their work at the draft and in free agency this Summer. They have really put us in a position to hit the ground running in Helsinki. We all know how important it will be for this team to get off to a fast start, especially during the NHL Premiere Games against the Blackhawks, where we’re hoping to take advantage of the visibility and the high-profile nature of these games.
I know a lot of our staff and sponsors that are coming with us are excited to spend a week in a great, hockey-loving country like Finland.
From a business standpoint we have welcomed some new partners over the last few weeks including Celsius – the official calorie burning drink of the Florida Panthers and the BankAtlantic Center – BDO Seidman, LLP, Bennett Auto Supply and Chief Executive Air. With Celsius, we continue to diversify our beverage options at the BankAtlantic Center, while BDO Seidman, a national accounting and consulting firm, is making its first foray into sports and entertainment marketing. In addition, Andy Frain Services has chosen to significantly enhance its existing partnership with us, while Saveology.com has chosen to extend their partnership for an unprecedented ten additional years. We’ve also renewed agreements with FOX Sports and Grand Bahama Island, and Honda and Hyundai have both committed to the SSE Media Network.
In the office, our ticket sales department continues to push the incredible value proposition of our season ticket plans, starting at $35 a game in the Panthers Locker Room and $7 per game on the terrace level. We’ve worked hard this summer to make Panthers tickets as affordable as possible, and you’re likely to see more price reductions when single game tickets go on sale this week.
I know, as Panthers fans, you must be extremely excited about the opportunity to see the Cats take the ice over the next few weeks, but the best opportunity to get up close and personal with Panthers players, coaches and staff before our home opener on October 10 is the annual Face-Off Luncheon at the Signature Grand. This wonderful event, which benefits the Panthers Foundation and is nearly sold-out, gives you the chance to have lunch with a Panthers player or personality right after they return from Helsinki. Call 954-835-7332 to reserve your seat, as only a few are remaining. Also, if you’re looking to share your excitement for Cats hockey with fellow fans, follow the Panthers Countdown Caravan all across South Florida as we bring a host of hockey-centric fun and activities to a town near you.
But while we are all excited about the start of hockey season, we can’t forget that maybe our biggest event of the year is coming to the ‘Center of it All’ tonight when the Jonas Brothers take the stage for a sold out show at the BankAtlantic Center. Our staff and crew here at SSE have done an incredible job preparing for what will undoubtedly be an incredible evening of entertainment for fans from all over the tri-county area. Truly, we have done our best to live up to our recent No. 3 national ranking by Pollstar Magazine.
Once the Jonas Brothers head out of town we will turn our attention to Panthers Ice Dancers tryouts on Saturday, August 22, then a host of other big shows like Jamie Foxx, Depeche Mode, Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, Disney On Ice, and finally, some NHL hockey.
It’s incredible that we will drop the puck on the 2009-10 NHL season in just a few weeks. I spoke to our FOX Sports broadcasters Steve Goldstein and Billy Lindsay a few days ago, and they said they are tired of doing mock broadcasts together, they want to move on to the real thing. The same goes for our game presentation department, who are eager to unveil some exciting new kinks to the “Panthers Hockey Experience” at the BankAtlantic Center this season.
Frankly, looking back at what we’ve accomplished over the last few months, and what lies ahead before Opening Night, it’s a wonder they even call it the “offseason.”