On Friday October 26, the NHL announced the cancellation of all of its games through November 30. This is another round of cancellations due to a lockout that now threatens the 2012-13 season. This round of cancelations is particularly harmful to the Florida Panthers, who will lose several high profile home games that were scheduled for late November.
The Red Wings have one of the largest fan bases in the NHL and their fans tend to travel well. The Red Wings are in the Western Conference so the Cats don't get the chance to play them very often. The last time the Red Wings made the trip to Sunrise was back in November of 2008. The cancellation of this game is a huge revenue loss for the Panthers, the BT&T Center and the surrounding community. The Cats typically don't come close to selling enough tickets to fill the barn but they may have packed the place to the rafters for this game. Another disappointing thing about the cancellation is that this game would have given the Panthers a chance to prove to the rest of the teams in the NHL that their success last season wasn't a fluke. For Red Wings fans in South Florida, they may have to wait for a few more years before they have a chance to see their team on the ice in Sunrise.
The Rangers are an Eastern Conference team and in a typical season they make a few trips to South Florida. The Rangers game is a blow to the team because like the Red Wings, the Rangers have a large fan base that travels well. The cancellation of this game is particularly harmful because it deprives the Cats of a chance to pick up a big win against one of the best teams in the league on their home ice. This game also would have served as a prelude to one of the biggest matchups on the Panthers' schedule this year when they are set to meet the Rangers on New Year's Eve in Sunrise.
Divisional matchups are always big. The Lightning provide a great interstate rivalry for the Panthers. It's not a long drive from Tampa to Sunrise and when the Lightning visit Sunrise they often bring a decent amount of fans with them that fill the BT&T Center and the local hotels.
The Capitals are another great divisional rival because if the Panthers want to repeat as Southeast Division champions, they have to go through the Capitals. These games are always fun for the fans because it's a chance to see the Cats take on a good team and gives the Panthers the chance to pick up an important win to boost their position in the division.
The NHL lockout has had players off the ice since September 16. After this latest round of cancelations, the players and the league have lost out on a total of 326 games between all the teams in the league.
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Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein