Please recall we've been holding a Florida Panthers contest, in which the winner gets four tickets and a splendiferous night at the rink for a game against the Detroit Red Wings. All we asked for in return was a list of the "Top 10 Reasons the Florida Panthers are Actually Pretty Cool."
You had to be able to actually attend the game, which left some of Puck Daddy's more creative and cynical puckheads on the sidelines. Nonetheless, we received dozens of entries, and have discovered several general points of pride for the Panthers faithful:
Rats. It's been well over a decade since the Year of the Rat, but Panthers fans still revere those little plastic buggers like a Wings fan loves a cephalopod.
Pavel Bure. On this point, we can not argue.
Goaltending. If nothing else, this franchise has had an absurd amount of quality goalies, from John Vanbiesbrouck to Roberto Luongo to Tomas Vokoun. (And, of course, Kevin Weekes and Alex Auld.) It's actually quite remarkable, while strangely also a tad depressing.
Ice Dancers/Girls/Arena Eye Candy. Again, on this point, we can not argue either.
Up next, some Panthers lists that didn't make the cut because they mercilessly ridicule the team, as well as our first- and second-place winners.
A few of the entries were quite similar: They guy who listed beer twice; the guy who listed the Ice Dancers three times. But we want to begin by handing out an honorable mention to Ryan Kelley, for including this YouTube clip on his list:
Let's get the snark out of the way. The sinister Graeme and Brad from The 6th Sens blog sent over this hilarious, if not really keeping in the spirit of the thing, list:
1) Pavel Bure still hangs out at the opponents' blueline waiting for an empty netters to pad his HOF credentials.
2) Florida must be cool or else Bryan McCabe never would have waived his NTC. Just ask Cliff Fletcher.
3) You're always on the edge of your seat at a Panthers game. Not even a hemorrhoid riddled person sits on more cushions than a Jacques Martin club that's up by one-goal.
4) They still draw more fans than the Marlins and unlike the Marlins, local authorities don't have to worry about defecting Cubans suiting up for the Panthers.
5) During the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, women could throw stuff (rubber rats) at Patrick Roy without fear of retribution.
6) The Roberto Luongo deal is regarded as one of the worst deals in NHL history. But hey, any press is good press.
7) Randy Sexton, the current Asst. GM of the Panthers, once marketed Alexandre Daigle to Quebecers by putting him in a nurse's uniform. Imagine what he'll do to sell the game in Florida.
8) According to Wikipedia: As of 2008, the Florida Panthers are the only team in the NHL to have a lifetime winning percentage of .500 or better over the Montreal Canadiens, the winningest team in the NHL history with 24 Stanley Cup titles. Eat it frenchies!
9) Panthers owners don't generate revenue by pressing their goalies to advertise B-class movies on their masks.
Brutal, boys. Josh Tackentien was a little kinder. But barely:
10. They have "Ice Dancers"
9. They have Palm trees on ice hockey sweaters!?
8. Their 800 number requires you to press "2" for English
7. They've never had a 100 point scorer
6. They're nice enough not to hog playoff spots
5. They're generous -- in 12 of 15 seasons they have given up more goals than they have scored
4. They have the best tans in the NHL
3. They can go from Shoot Out to Surf's Up in less than 10 minutes
2. They've had 17 head coaches and GMs in 15 seasons (lockout excluded)
1. The RATS!!!!
Again, we were sort of looking for reasons to celebrate the team. Like No. 5 on John Weaver's list:
5. Hockey in Florida! Face it. Some people think Bettman's an idiot for doing it, but I think it's great that they, along with the Lightning, give people who didn't get that much exposure to the greatest game on earth a chance to root for a home hockey team!
See, don't we all feel better? So with that, let's get to the two winners.
Second place receives a spiffy Panthers hat and whatever other swag the publicity firm the team hired wants to kick his way. Here's Kevin Fisher from Cheektowaga, NY with the "Top 10 Reasons the Florida Panthers are Actually Pretty Cool."
1) Rats. Nobody likes Rats, but with a swift of a wrist by Scott Mellanby, rats became the rage in Florida. They even threw rubber rats on the ice for celebration. And c'mon, who would really think one of these can work in hockey promotions?
2) The Florida Panthers have made the Stanley Cup Finals more times in forty years than the Toronto Maple Leafs. What's even better? The Leafs, in order to trade Bryan McCabe, had to GIVE THEM A FOURTH ROUNDER for a defenseman who played in 20 games the season before.
3) Spring Break. It's Florida, and it's hot out. If I was a NHL player, I'd want to play in Florida. Spring Breaks brings the best out of everyone. And when you consider this: "Hot College Girls" and "Topless"? That's a recipe for success, buddy boy.
4) No Snow: While hockey was built on sheets of ice and cold, blistering winters, Florida hockey is like the Garden of Eve. Where else can you go to a game in January wearing shorts and flip flops?
5) John Stamos connection. While the Panthers did have Pavel Bure, it was better when they had Valeri Bure. Why is this? Valeri is married to Candace Cameron, aka D.J. Tanner on Full House. And who else was on Full House? John Stamos.
6) Wayne Huizenga: The man who brought hockey to the South Belt, Huizenga is more well-known as the brains behind Blockbuster Videos. And who doesn't like a quick trip to Blockbuster Videos to find a movie for your latest dinner and a movie?
7) Bernie Kosar. How awesome is it that your franchise is co-owned by a former Pro Bowler? Does it help he's considered a super awesome guy too? It helps that Kosar looked more like the average fan then he did a professional athlete.
8) Mad Mike. Sure, a bunch of people used Mike Milbury for his talent, but how do you convince someone to trade two on the rise players (Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo) for two players (Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish) one who is not in the league while the other is signing one year deals? That's called genius.
9) The Beezer: John Vanbiesbrouck was on the downslide of his career before being picked up by the pesky Panthers. The results? Three 20-plus win seasons, Stanley Cup Appearance, on the cover of NHL 97 and having the sickest mask to ever be created.
10) They have the Canadiens' number. The Florida Panthers are the only team to possess a .500 or better record against the Montreal Canadiens. Considering the Canadiens have more cups (24) then the Panthers have been in existence (15 years), that is quite the ownage.
But the big winner of our Florida Panthers ticket giveaway contest is Devin Donohue of Boynton Beach, Fla. This list covers a lot of ground, and captures some of the true joys of being a Panthers fan:
1. Clearly the year of the rat tops this list. You've got cats, and you've got rats, but when have you ever seen your cat pick up a hockey stick and one-time the furry bastard into a wall at 90 MPH? Never. That alone is pretty damned cool.
3. Denis Potvin. And Denis Potvin's wild mid-game tangents about his playing days and whatever the hell else he feels like talking about. He's Denis Potvin, and you're going to listen. If you're not, just remember that he can probably still kick your ass.
And he's not the only one.
5. If hockey and hot women -- and not just the Ice Dancers ... seriously, go to a game and look around. If there aren't enough for you, you might be a geek. But don't worry, the Panthers cater to your inner-nerd as well. Alien invasion, anyone?
Belfour is an animal. If he could have had his way, he would've taken on the entire Carolina team. Buy that man a beer. He'll be the last one standing.
And he wasn't half bad, either.
7. Neither was John Vanbiesbrouck or Kirk McLean or Mike Vernon or Roberto Luongo or Tomas Vokoun. Who's next? Jacob Markström? You bet. If you like watching talented goalies, you ought to like Florida. We've had a few.
8. No one else in the league has a winning record against the Montreal Canadiens.
9. Winning the first playoff series in franchise history on Bill Lindsay's famous goal. How dramatic was that?
10. The Panthers appreciate their fans and reach out to the fanbase to bring them closer to the team. And even if our numbers are smaller, Panthers blood runs through the fans' veins as thick as in Montreal.
So when someone asks you why the Panthers shouldn't be moved or contracted, perhaps these lists have given you some solid reasons. Or, at the very least, some good Ed Belfour or Bryan McCabe jokes.
Thanks again to all who entered, and thanks to the Panthers for the contest. Have a beer or 10 on us, Devin.
- John Vanbiesbrouck
- Roberto Luongo