Panthers owner (and Trump nominee) accused of punching concession worker

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - JUNE 26: Chief Executive Officer and Owner of the Florida Panthers Vincent Viola attends the commissioner's luncheon at Ritz Carlton on June 26, 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
Panthers owner and CEO Vincent Viola (Getty Images)

Vincent Viola, Florida Panthers owner, is going through the confirmation motions as the Trump Administration’s nominee for Secretary of the Army. It includes an in-depth digging into his background.

The New York Times found something from back in August, prior to the election and Viola’s nomination.

The Times published a police report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, alleging Viola was involved in an altercation on Aug. 12 at a “high end race horse auction” in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Viola is reported to have punched a concession worker who allegedly pushed Viola’s wife while she was trying to get water for a patron at the auction who had fainted.

Here’s the narrative of what happened from the responding officer:

Police Report via NYT
Police Report via NYT
Police Report via NYT
Police Report via NYT

Per the police report, the incident was closed almost immediately as the man who was allegedly punched by Viola “refused to cooperate.”

Police Report via NYT
Police Report via NYT

The Times added additional information from Fasig-Tipton where the auction and alleged run-in took place:

In response to a series of questions, Fasig-Tipton said in a statement that it had conducted an internal investigation into the dispute and “determined that any assault allegations were without merit.” Fasig-Tipton did not say whether it was referring to the allegation that the concessions worker had pushed Mr. Viola’s wife or the punch, and it did not respond to a follow-up question about what it investigated.

The altercation took place in August prior to the presidential election. Back then Viola was just a regular rich guy who owned a hockey team.

Puck Daddy reached out to both the Florida Panthers and the NHL for comment as to if they were aware of what happened in August, and what – if any – repercussions Viola received for his part in the incident; as Viola admits to allegedly striking the individual even though there were no charges filed.

Florida Panthers vp of public relations and communications Thomas Drance replied via email with the following:

“We have no comment on this matter and advise that you direct your questions to the Trump transition team.”

The NHL has yet to respond to the request for comment.

Viola is a retired Army Ranger, turned billionaire, turned NHL team owner, and appears to be on his way to Secretary of the Army under the new administration. As The Times notes, his confirmation hearing has not been set.

If this is the worst thing in his background (Panthers front office decisions notwithstanding), he’s probably going to be OK in the confirmation hearing.

The Viola family will maintain ownership of the Panthers as Viola participates in this new endeavor.


Florida Panthers beat writer Harvey Fialkov of the Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted out the following after we published:

The NHL responded to our email request for comment.

Per a league spokesman, the NHL “has nothing to say” about Viola or the alleged incident.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!