On Sunday, the Florida Panthers defeated the Vancouver Canucks during a home game that filled the BB&T Center with more Panthers leaping off of fans’ sweaters than I have seen at a home game in quite some time.
A few more things: Jaromir Jagr, 43, scored the first goal for the Panthers, allowing him to assume the title of 4th all-time in goals scored at the NHL level, and he already held the title of 4th all-time in points. To make it even sweeter, Aleksander Barkov, 20, continued his success and the team’s dominance in the shootout, scoring the game winner to make it a 5-4 win. Sunday night began with an important Panthers’ win to keep them in the run for the playoffs in April.
“That goal was sweet, and the win was even sweeter,” Jagr said in an NHL.com article. “We have to make sure we can win more games before the Christmas break … It was a little bit tough. We had tough bounces today, but we didn’t give up and waited for the perfect opportunity to win the hockey game.”
Walk into the arena, check your tickets, and sit down because Florida hockey as a whole is heating up. The pun aside, it’s true. The Panthers are creating good publicity for themselves. The NHL has had reason to post highlight reels of success from this team on social media and its website.
Barkov scores game winner in the shootout against Vancouver’s back-up goalie, Jacob Markstrom.
I will also give mention to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as it is the current Eastern Conference champion.
The NHL teams in Florida were established in the early 1990s. Although, it has been a bumpy ride for both clubs and its histories, both the Cats and the Bolts have had opportunity to claim Lord Stanley’s cup — Tampa having the honor to claim it in 2004 while Florida was swept in 1996 — and both teams are on the upside of development in its player systems.
Social media is not friendly to these two clubs. Florida major league sports, generally, don’t get much leeway. We’ve heard it all before. The fans are transient; the teams are compiled of misfits, and the pride may or may not be full of bandwagons. But, that is a great blanket that can cover any sports team today. With regards to Montreal and its Canadiens, it’s hard to beat a fan base that has had over 100 years to develop and experience wins and losses. Also, it hasn’t won a cup or made an appearance since its win over Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings at the end of the 1992-93 season. To back off the Canadiens a bit, the team is compiled of players such as Vezina Trophy (amongst other awards) winning goaltender Carey Price and Norris Trophy recipient defensemen P.K. Subban.
Montreal aside, the Panthers deserve a chance, and Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, spoke very highly of the club when it hosted the NHL entry-level draft in June of this year.
“Look at the upper deck and the standing room only,” Bettman said to the crowd at BB&T Center this past summer. “Hockey is alive and well in South Florida.”
Hockey is a sport for all to love, and it has gained high ground among people everywhere in the world compared to other major sports like football, basketball and soccer. All major leagues have their controversy. But, my opinion stands; the NHL does it right.
The Panthers have a big string of home games to end the first half of the season, and they will want to see further development in their youth. There is no question that this team has dynamics, and most playoff teams do because teams must be in order to get a glimpse at Stanley.
“We’ve kind of made a commitment to being responsible to each other on the ice,” captain Willie Mitchell said in a post-game interview after the win against Vancouver. “And when you do that, you’re pretty predictable, and when you’re predictable, you’re a fast team. And, I think that you’re seeing that with our hockey club now.”
The Panthers continue their home stand through the end of the year at 7:30 p.m. tonight against their Atlantic Division rival, the Ottawa Senators.