I’ve been a fan of the Florida Panthers since 1993, I remember being at the inaugural home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was 11 years old, and once the game started I was instantly hooked, I’ve followed the team game by game season after season from that moment on. I know several other Panther fans who are in the same boat, sticking by the team through good times and bad. I mention this because it makes me wonder at times when reading articles online claiming how the fanbases on southern market teams is horrible. Granted not everyone shares the same opinion but for the most part year after year even in good times we hear a few stories on how our team should just fold and move north to Canada.
Aren’t sports there for everyone to enjoy? Why should where you live geographically effect your ability to see a game live? There might be the argument that Southern teams with “weak” markets may not make the same money a team from New York or Toronto does, and that’s true. However nobody ever seems to take into account that those teams have been around for over a hundred years, it’s natural that they would have the following that a southern team doesn’t. If you really want to point the finger at anyone when it comes to a team not thriving, take all things into consideration before bashing that teams fans. The Atlanta Thrashers had issues with their ownership, either not willing to put out the money needed to keep key players there or to bring other keys to the team to help push them to the next level. There’s the old saying, you have to spend money to make money, the fans definitely are spending the money, so have a little compassion for once.
I don’t know the full extent of the Dallas Stars situation, but I’ve heard in the past they have had issues with ownership which lead to the decline in attendance. But how about the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks? All southern teams that do well, why? Because ownership is willing to spend the money. I’m not saying the teams not making money or spending big on free agent’s need to sell off to somebody who will, I’m just stating that until the teams manage to rebuild from within they’re going to continue to have the issues they do, it will happen it just takes time. The Phoenix Coyotes have had financial troubles for years but still manage to put quality on the ice thanks to wonderful management putting a solid affordable group together, but it’s easier said than done. Florida has had issues with previous ownerships not committing to contracts and it’s hurt them. They hold the NHL record for most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, which was snapped last season when they won the South East Division and took the New Jersey Devils to double OT of game 7 in the first round. The Washington Capitals have won the Presidents Trophy as the NHL’s top team in the regular season, while in the South East Division. The Carolina hurricanes and Tampa bay Lightning have both won the Stanley Cup while in the South East Division. The Ducks and Kings have both won Stanley Cups, but how long has it been since a Canadian team has won the cup?
The last cup won North of the border was in 1993, the year Florida came into the league by the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe we’re a curse and that’s why these fans have what appears to be such a grudge against us? Now there’s always the argument when I hear someone respond to a Canadian fans remarks where they say “80% of your teams roster is Canadian players”. That may be true, but a lot of them enjoy where they’re playing. Shane Doan has been with the Coyotes for his entire career, and until recently has never thought once about leaving. Dany Heatley denied a trade to the Edmonton Oilers but was more than willing to join the Sharks. Stephen Weiss has been with the Panthers for 10 years, and despite a few rumors on how he wants to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has always stated he want’s to stay with Florida. So is the what seems like bitterness or hatred of our teams because of jealousy of the ‘hometown’ players our teams have? Is it because Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Oilers to the Kings and helped build Hockey in the south?
Last season when the Panthers won the South East division the saying going around was “Congratulations on being the best of the worst.”, because it’s widely believed the South East Division is the weakest in the league. What those people fail to remember or admit, is that Florida swept the season series against Toronto and Montreal going 8-0 against both teams combined. In the 2011-2012 season Florida record against Canadian teams was 15-3-3, in 18 of 21 games Florida registered at least 1 point. The record against the division would be 12-7-2 which would indicate that Florida had a harder time against division opponents than they did teams from Canada, however “The South East Division is the worst division in hockey.” Could the hatred of southern market teams be because they’re tired of losing to them?
It’s getting a bit old, and needs to come to an end, the sport is for everyone to enjoy not just those who feel entitled to it. In the past few years native born Californians and Floridians have been drafted into the NHL and the number will eventually increase, get used to it. Again, I’m not saying everyone shares the same opinion, but based off of a lot of different sources and comments it’s definitely noticeable. Hockey is here to stay in the south and will eventually thrive, by the way thank you for Jonathan Huberdeau Canada.