The Florida Panthers opened their 2013-14 preseason schedule on Monday with a doubleheader on home ice: two split-squad games against the Nashville Predators at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Erin Brown, Florida Panthers correspondent for Fox Sports Florida, tweeted the following image during the national anthem of the afternoon game. And it wasn’t pretty:
BREAKING: Team expected to finish last in its conference draws no one on a September weekday afternoon against a non-conference opponent in a meaningless game …
So much for that "Panthers fans excited for preseason" angle ...
The photo and others taken by the few fans in attendance at BB&T Center soon went viral, led by Deadspin’s sarcastic take on the matter.
We were left baffled by a few things. Like why the Panthers would schedule this game in the first place. Like if the team expected this attendance when the games started to actually matter.
Puck Daddy reached out to Panthers President Michael Yormark with those queries, and received the following response:
"This is the third consecutive full season (excluding last year) we have hosted a weekday preseason doubleheader with Nashville and one of the primary reasons we began this series was to afford both franchises the opportunity to evaluate their full training camp rosters in a game situation in just one day. And while the day game attendance is not as high as we would like we believe the doubleheader still represents a unique opportunity for our fans.
“However, in no way does today's attendance reflect our expectation for the upcoming season. In fact we fully expect an Opening Night sellout, our new full season equivalent ticket sales are up 41-percent over last year and we also expect the 2013-14 season to be the fourth consecutive year in which we see an average home attendance increase at the BB&T Center."
It's important to note that the Panthers also charged $20 for parking for this opportunity, per George Richards.
Look, the empty seats are embarrassing, but so is claiming the Panthers should relocate to Quebec based on its attendance for a glorified scrimmage. This isn’t a full-throated defense of the franchise’s solvency. It’s not exactly on the sturdiest footing. But judge the regular-season gate or the suite sales or the player budget or something other than a Monday afternoon on Sept. 16 against Nashville.
(And for the love of all things good and logical, don’t be that fan who pumps up Canadian preseason game attendance as some devout justification that American markets that don’t draw as well are unworthy. Yes, it proves that markets with high ticket demand will sellout exhibition games. And maybe our cultures just see the preseason differently, much like we disagree on how to spell “ton.”)