||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2012)|
|2012–13 Florida Panthers season|
|Home arena||BB&T Center|
|Colors||Red, blue, gold, white
WQAM Sports Radio (560 AM)
|Owner(s)||Sunrise Sports and Entertainment
(Cliff Viner, chairman)
|General manager||Dale Tallon|
|Head coach||Kevin Dineen|
|Minor league affiliates||San Antonio Rampage (AHL)
Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)
|Conference championships||1 (1995–96)|
|Division championships||1 (2011–12)|
The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in Sunrise, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). They play their games at the BB&T Center in Sunrise and are the southernmost team in the NHL. They made one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, getting swept by the Colorado Avalanche in four games.
Franchise history 
Blockbuster Video magnate Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise for Miami on December 10, 1992, the same day The Walt Disney Company earned the rights to start a team in Anaheim. At the time, Huizenga owned both the newly founded Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball and a share of the National Football League's Miami Dolphins. The entry fee was $50 million, but despite fellow Florida team Tampa Bay Lightning starting play the year before, the league did not consider to be any territory infringement. Huizenga announced the team would play at the Miami Arena, sharing the building with the NBA's Miami Heat, until a new arena was built. Offices for the team were only established on June 1993. Vice president of business operations Dean Jordan declared that "none of the business people, myself included, knew anything about hockey."
On April 20, 1993, a press conference in Fort Lauderdale announced that the team would be named Florida Panthers, with Bill Torrey as president and Bobby Clarke as general manager. The team is named for the Florida panther, an endangered species of large cat endemic to the nearby Everglades. Once the logos and uniforms were unveiled on June 15, the team also announced its financial commitment to the panther preservation cause. Huizenga held the Panthers trademark since 1991, when he purchased it from a group of Tampa investors who sought to create an MLB team on the Bay area.
The new franchise would join the league in the 1993-94 NHL season along with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The Panthers' and Ducks' roster was filled up in the both an expansion draft and the 1993 NHL Entry Draft in June 1993, hosted by Quebec City; that draft produced ten players who would be a part of the 1996 Eastern Conference championship team.
Inaugural season 1993-94 
The Panthers' first major stars were New York Rangers goaltender castoff John Vanbiesbrouck, rookie Rob Niedermayer, and Scott Mellanby, who scored 30 goals. Their first game was a 4-4 tie on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks. The first win in franchise history was a 2-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Thunderdome before a then-NHL record crowd of 27,227. The Panthers had one of the most successful first seasons of any expansion team (and the best first year of any NHL team), finishing one point below .500 and narrowly missing out on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their first-year success was attributed mainly to the "trap defense" that first-year coach Roger Neilson implemented. This conservative style was widely criticized by NHL teams; some even suggested that the Panthers were ruining the game at the time. While the team executives expected the audience to consist of mostly "snowbird" Canadians living in Florida, the Floridians soon embraced the Panthers. Helped by Miami's other teams having middling performances, the club averaged 94% capacity at the 14,500-seat Miami Arena, and managed to 100 days sell 8,500 season tickets.
In August 1994, Clarke left to work in the Calgary Flames, and Bryan Murray was brought in from the Detroit Red Wings. After another close brush with the playoffs, finishing the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season again at ninth, Neilson was fired following an argument with Murray regarding Ed Jovanovski, whom the Panthers chose as the top pick at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Doug MacLean, who had been the team's player development director, was promoted to coach.  The team then acquired Ray Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline and looked toward the playoffs for the first time.
Run to the Stanley Cup Finals 
A very unusual goal celebration developed in Miami during the 1995–96 NHL season. On the night of the Panthers' 1995–96 home opener, a rat scurried across the team's locker room. Mellanby reacted by "one-timing" the rat against the wall, killing it. That night, he scored two goals, which Vanbiesbrouck quipped was "a rat trick." Two nights later, as the story found its way into the world, a few fans threw rubber rats on the ice in celebration of a goal. The rubber rat count went from 16 for the third home game to over 2,000 during the playoffs.
In the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the fourth seed, the Panthers faced the Boston Bruins in the first round and won in five games. Bill Lindsay's famous series-clinching goal is still a trademark image for the incredible run the third-year franchise went on. The Panthers went on to upset the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in six games and then the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in seven (with Tom Fitzgerald scoring what would end up being the game-winning goal) to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Colorado Avalanche, another team on its first final. The Avalanche swept the Panthers in four games. Bryan Murray was honored as NHL Executive of the Year.
The Panthers would begin the next season with a 17–game unbeaten streak but faded in the second half of the season after trading second line center Stu Barnes. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Wayne Gretzky-led Rangers in five games.
The team would plummet in the 1997–98 season. After a 7–12–4 start, the Panthers fired MacLean, replacing him for the season with general manager Bryan Murray. The change did not aid matters, as Florida suffered a franchise-worst 24–43–15 record, including a 15–game winless streak. This season would also mark the end of Vanbiesbrouck's time in Florida; in the midst of that streak, he was shelled by the Chicago Blackhawks and never played another game for the Panthers. He would sign with the Flyers that off-season as a free agent.
The Panthers moved into the brand new National Car Rental Center (later Office Depot and BankAtlantic Center, now known as BB&T Center) in 1998. In 1998–99, they acquired Pavel Bure (the "Russian Rocket"), in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks. They reached the playoffs again in 1999–2000, losing in a first-round sweep to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils.
The team slumped in 2000–01. The following season, 2001–02, the Panthers had their worst record ever. Bure struggled despite being reunited with his brother Valeri, and was traded to the Rangers at the 2002 trading deadline.
The Panthers then started coveting defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who was widely tipped to be picked first overall in the 2002 draft. But then-General Manager Rick Dudley sent Florida's first pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who took winger Rick Nash. The Atlanta Thrashers, after picking goalie Kari Lehtonen second overall, announced that the Panthers had given them two draft picks to guarantee that Bouwmeester would still be available for Florida's selection. Bouwmeester was selected third overall by the Panthers. Said then-head coach Mike Keenan, "We shouldn’t have done that ... Jay would have been number-one if we'd kept that pick."
In 2003, the Panthers hosted the NHL All-Star Weekend in which the Western Conference earned a 6–5 victory after the first OT shootout in All-Star history. The West overcame a four-goal outburst by Thrashers winger Dany Heatley, who took home MVP honors in his first All-Star Game.
On June 23, 2006, the Panthers were again involved in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks, sending Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, and a sixth-round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov) in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld, and Bryan Allen. This trade has been regarded by some as one of the worst trades in professional sports history. Luongo who was and still is at the prime of his career is one of the top goalies in the NHL. Bertuzzi only played a handful of games for the Cats before getting injured. He would be traded to Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline for Shawn Matthias. Alex Auld ended up being a poor replacement for the Panthers former franchise goalie and was let go after one season.
On June 22, 2007, the Florida Panthers were involved in yet another draft day deal involving a goalie. The Florida Panthers acquired Tomas Vokoun from the Nashville Predators in exchange for three draft picks, a first round pick in 2008, a second round pick in 2008, and a conditional second round pick that can be used in 2007 or 2008. The move would eventually pay off when Vokoun was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
On July 28, 2007, the Florida Panthers unveiled their new jerseys to over 11,000 fans at the BankAtlantic Center during the first intermission of the Panthers 1996 Reunion game. Star forwards Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss were both in full gear to help showcase the sweater changes.
The Panthers finished the 2008–09 season with a strong 41-30-11 record and 93 points, their second best ever in franchise history. Despite this, however, the Panthers missed the playoffs for an eighth straight season, the current longest streak in the NHL.
On November 23, 2009 the Panthers made their third jersey, ridding red from the alternate jersey, replacing it with powder blue.
The Florida Panthers missed the playoffs for the 9th consecutive time in the 2009–10 NHL season, making them the first team in NHL history to do so in one city. On March 25, 2011, the Panthers lost to the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 mathematically eliminating them from the postseason for an NHL record 10th consecutive season.
2010-11 - Out with the old 
Panthers management hired Dale Tallon as the team's new general manager on May 17, 2010. Tallon rebuilt the team with 2010 draft picks Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden, acquired players Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, Marty Reasoner, Ryan Carter, and Sergei Samsonov. Subsequently, all of the above mentioned players were traded at the 2011 trade deadline or released during the 2011 offseason. At the end of the 2011 season, only Stephen Weiss and David Booth remained from the pre-lockout era Panthers roster.
2011-13 - From Worst to First/Return to the Playoffs/From First To Worst Again 
On June 1, 2011, Kevin Dineen, head coach of the AHL Portland Pirates, was named to be the 11th head coach of the Panthers. The team also rebranded their image, releasing a new home jersey, predominately red with navy blue sleeves, and eliminating the navy blue piping on the road jersey; this new jersey was a reflection of the original Panthers jersey.
The 2011 offseason saw the acquisitions of Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell.
After several more trades and over 300 man games lost to injury throughout the season, the Panthers were able to finish first in the Southeast Division, marking the end of their record-setting decade-long postseason drought. The Panthers won the first ever division title in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on April 7, 2012. However, the Panthers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference Champions New Jersey Devils, losing at home in double overtime of Game 7.
In the lockout shortened 2012-13 NHL Season, the Panthers had an abysmal season. Unable to regain their form from last season, the Panthers suffered key injuries and fell back down into the basement with the worst record in the league.
Season-by-season record 
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Panthers. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Florida Panthers seasons.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Records as of the end of the 2010-11 season.
|2008–09||82||41||30||11||93||234||231||3rd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2009–10||82||32||37||13||77||208||234||5th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2010–11||82||30||40||12||72||195||229||5th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2011–12||82||38||26||18||94||203||227||1st, Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 3-4 (Devils)|
|2012–13||48||15||27||6||36||112||171||5th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
Players, Coaches, and Front Office 
Current roster 
Updated April 4, 2013.
Retired numbers 
|93||Bill Torrey||President &
|1993–2001||October 23, 2010|
|99 1||Wayne Gretzky||C||-||February 6, 2000|
- 1 Gretzky never played for the franchise. His #99 was retired league-wide by the NHL.
Team captains 
Head Coaches 
General Managers 
NHL All-Star Game Selections 
- Bob Kudelski, 1994
- John Vanbiesbrouck, 1994, 1996, 1997
- Scott Mellanby, 1996
- Robert Svehla, 1997
- Pavel Bure, 2000, 2001
- Viktor Kozlov, 2000
- Sandis Ozolinsh, 2002, 2003
- Olli Jokinen, 2003
- Roberto Luongo, 2004
- Jay Bouwmeester, 2007, 2009
- Tomas Vokoun, 2008
- Brian Campbell, 2012
- Head Coaches
Hockey Hall of Fame members 
- Ed Belfour, G, 2006–2007, inducted 2011
- Pavel Bure, RW, 1999–2002, inducted 2012
- Dino Ciccarelli, RW, 1998–1999, inducted 2010
- Igor Larionov, C, 2000, inducted 2008
- Joe Nieuwendyk, C, 2005–2006, inducted 2011
- Roger Neilson, Coach, 1993–95, inducted 2002
- Bill Torrey, President and General Manager, 1993–2001, inducted 1995
First-round draft picks 
- 1993: Rob Niedermayer (5th overall)
- 1994: Ed Jovanovski (1st overall)
- 1995: Radek Dvorak (10th overall)
- 1996: Marcus Nilson (20th overall)
- 1997: Mike Brown (20th overall)
- 1998: None
- 1999: Denis Shvidki (12th overall)
- 2000: None
- 2001: Stephen Weiss (4th overall) & Lukas Krajicek (24th overall)
- 2002: Jay Bouwmeester (3rd overall) & Petr Taticek (9th overall)
- 2003: Nathan Horton (3rd overall) & Anthony Stewart (25th overall)
- 2004: Rostislav Olesz (7th overall)
- 2005: Kenndal McArdle (20th overall)
- 2006: Michael Frolik (10th overall)
- 2007: Keaton Ellerby (10th overall)
- 2008: None
- 2009: Dmitri Kulikov (14th overall)
- 2010: Erik Gudbranson (3rd overall), Nick Bjugstad (19th overall) & Quinton Howden (25th overall)
- 2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall)
- 2012: Mike Matheson (23rd overall)
Franchise scoring leaders 
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Panthers player
NHL awards and trophies 
Franchise individual records 
- Most goals in a season: Pavel Bure, 59 (2000–01)
- Most assists in a season: Viktor Kozlov, 53 (1999–2000)
- Most points in a season: Pavel Bure, 94 (1999–2000)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Peter Worrell, 354 (2001–02)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: Robert Svehla, 57 (1995–96)
- Most points in a season, rookie: Jesse Belanger, 50 (1993–94)
- Most wins in a season: Roberto Luongo, 35 (2005–06)
- Most saves in a shutout win: Craig Anderson, 53
- Most shutouts in a season: Roberto Luongo, 7 (2003–04)
- All time leader in goals against average: John Vanbiesbrouck, 2.58
- All time leader in shutouts: Roberto Luongo, 26
- All time leader in games played by a goaltender: Roberto Luongo, 318
- All time leader in wins by a goaltender: Roberto Luongo, 108
See also 
- Richards, George. "Florida Panthers in hockey heaven after ending playoff drought Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/08/2737116/florida-panthers-in-hockey-heaven.". Miamiherald. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- Richardson, Jordan. "New Jersey Devils Eliminate Florida Panthers". News Hockey Draft Ca. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- NHL to add teams in Miami, Anaheim Huizenga, Disney high-profile owners, The New York Times
- Farber, Michael (1996-11-09). "Above And Beyond". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- They`re Panthers, Torrey Is President Nhl Expansion Team`s New Boss Shaped Isles
- Panthers Unveil Uniforms, Logo, Sun-Sentinel
- Local Fans Give Huizenga 113,000 Votes Of Confidence, Sun-Sentinel
- Montville, Leigh (1996-06-10). "Rat Pack". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- Cut The Trap? Neilson Isn't Staying In Neutral Zone
- Ulman, Howard (1996-06-11). "No stopping the Avalanche — Colorado completes Cup sweep of Panthers with 3OT victory". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-03-25.
- McDonell, Chris. (2005). Hockey's Greatest Stars: Legends and Young Lions. Firefly Books. p. 135. ISBN 1-55407-038-4.
- "Panthers Roster - Florida Panthers - Team". Florida Panthers. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- "Gretzky's number retired before All-Star Game", Sports Illustrated, 7 February 2000