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Greg Wyshynski

Florida Panthers Blueprint Advisory Board, assemble!

Greg Wyshynski
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If you have a favorite team, then you've bitched about it at some point. Probably daily. Maybe hourly.

Now, imagine if your rambling missives on the Internet or gripes to friends or grievances you've screamed while throwing the remote across the room could be relayed to the suits running the show. Not through some ignored general mailbox, but in the same room with them, as you all work together to make the team better.

It's no secret the Florida Panthers are a franchise looking for a new direction. Off the ice, their marketing has been bold, but with its share of innovations and embarrassments. On the ice, it would appear the team will be stripped down to its chassis, tailpipe, Stephen Weiss(notes) and David Booth(notes) before the summer rebuild begins.

In order to figure out the Panthers' future, COO Michael Yormark and GM Dale Tallon have created something called the Florida Panthers Blueprint Advisory Board, "made up of season seat owners, premium seat holders, national and local sponsors, and media members."

Their mission: Offer "an honest appraisal of the franchise" and then figure out how to make the Panthers a success in South Florida. We imagine the meeting will take more than 45 minutes.

The Board, which currently has 12 members but could grow to 15, will be revealed on March 9 and have a first meeting in mid-April that hopefully won't be preempted by a Panthers playoff game.

From the Panthers:

"This Board has been created because Michael and I both feel strongly that direct feedback from this diverse but knowledgeable group of individuals can help make us better as an organization and help us achieve our goals," Tallon said. "I personally find it helpful to interact with our constituents in an environment that is conducive to making an honest appraisal of our franchise - where we are, where we're headed, and how we are going to get there."

Members of the Board were chosen based on their diverse personal and professional backgrounds, knowledge of the Panthers franchise and the sports and entertainment industry in general, and ability to effectively communicate their ideas and opinions about improving the Panthers team and it's brand as a whole.

So a focus group, right? No, said Matt Sacco, director of media relations for the Panthers.

He said the goal was to bring together a cross-section of voices from the community and, in some cases, nationally in order to have a dialogue with management -- not just to have their ideas and preferences recorded.

He said while there would be Panthers fans on the Board, the aim was to have "no homers" on the panel in order to really bring some objective thought to the process.

Admittedly, our skin crawled a little when we read "media members" in the release, but Sacco said no one exclusively on the Panthers beat (including print journalists) will be the Board.

(Still, the idea of journalists, whose organizations cover the Panthers, advising the NHL team on a formal basis seems a bit of a moral quandary.)

Given the state of the team, this kind of outreach can only be a good thing. It could help focus the marketing. It could offer ideas on how to build a fan base. And what season-ticket holder wouldn't like an audience with the big bosses to gripe about the on-ice product?

Maybe this is just a public-relations stratagem. Maybe this is a legitimate venture with actual influence. Whatever the case, it'll open lines of communication between the decision-makers in the organization and their constituents. If goes well, maybe it can even achieve the ultimate goal: People becoming emotionally invested in this hockey team again.

Does your local team have anything like this, or is the interaction limited to season-ticket holder events and the like?

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