Wed Dec 08 11:26am EST
On Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers held what they called "the biggest Hanukkah party in South Florida" and handed out what we called "simply one of the greatest fan giveaways in recent NHL history": the official Florida Panthers yarmulke.
(It was also a night honoring the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals between the Panthers and the visiting Colorado Avalanche, but who cares about Brian Skrudland and Joe Sakic(notes) when there are yarmulkes to be had, right?)
Fans eagerly anticipated getting their hands on one of these unique keepsakes ... until they arrived at the arena and discovered the whole thing was mashugana, as the team seemingly changed the promotion overnight and limited the giveaway to a select group of single-game ticket buyers.
And some Panthers fans really, really don't think that's kosher. Florida fan Caity Kauffman offered a blow by blow of the yarmulke search on Twitter, with updates like: "At guest services hanging out with an actual Hebrew woman who is distraught about lack of yarmulkes."
We asked the Panthers to defend their actions in YarmulkeGate ... and they have.
The original press release on the game said "Panthers yarmulke given to all ticket-buyers." (See it here.) The text was changed at some point to instead read "Panthers yarmulke given to those who buy a special ticket pack."
(We believe that "some point" was during Tuesday night's game; the Panthers claim it was after last week's press coverage of the giveaway.)
Bill Jempty, blogging at OTB Sports, was outraged that all fans didn't receive the yarmulkes:
The Panthers don't have a very good rep in South Florida and this sure isn't going to help it. It is Hanukkah after all and this region has one of the biggest Jewish populations in the nation.
So what gives? Turns out the yarmulke giveaway was intended for fans that purchased discounted, single-game tickets for the Jewish Heritage Night, according to the team. They only ordered a few thousand because of that intent. It wasn't a full-fledged "giveaway night" for all ticketholders, but a targeted one for one-night-only ticket buyers.
Two problems here. The first is that the initial press release's "ticket buyers" is vague to the point of complete confusion, and you can't fault anyone for believing the giveaway was for any fan who purchased a ticket. (The Panthers contend that they've had signs and ads all over their building and website specifying that the yarmulkes were only for Jewish Heritage ticket buyers.)
The other problem: The Panthers created this incredible, unusual keepsake and decided not to give it to season-ticket holders?
Yes, in fact they did, which is just baffling.
Oy vey, what a mess! But the Panthers say they were blown away by the response to the hockey yarmulke, which is good news for next season's Heritage Night. Here is president & COO Michael Yormark, in a statement to Puck Daddy:
"Based on the success of the biggest Hanukkah Party in South Florida last night during the Panthers-Avalanche game at the BankAtlantic Center, we are definitely considering expanding the program in years to come. Also, any fans that were at the game but did not get a Panthers yarmulke, I'd urge you to call our ticket sales department and speak to one of our sales representatives."
Ticket sales number is 954-835-PUCK. Supplies are limited. But it's good to see that the Panthers are trying to remedy this situation for the fans that love them ... sniff ... OK, now we're getting verklempt! ... talk amongst yourselves ... here's a topic: Dennis Wideman(notes) is neither wide nor 'the man' ... discuss ...