The Florida Panthers have struggled for years — not just on the ice, but off it.
They’ve had their playoff runs, but they’re largely viewed as a cellar-dwelling franchise when it comes to their season-by-season production. Compound that with being the second team located in a small, non-traditional hockey market, and it’s small wonder the team has struggled.
This season, though, the Panthers have decided to push in a different direction.
They’ve stopped giving out free tickets, attempting to move away from the stigma that they’re desperate for a fanbase. It’s caused them to take a hit in their attendance numbers (they’re the worst-attended team in the NHL, putting up a fraction of the attendance of even the New Jersey Devils or the Arizona Coyotes), but the idea is that they’ll grow their fan base the right way — through developing a true emotional relationship with the community they play in.
Here’s their first big test.
It’s been making headlines all week — both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, the Panthers’ starter and backup, are out with injuries inflicted just minutes apart in Tuesday night’s game.
While Luongo may be back within a few games, though, Montoya is definitely out for a few weeks — so the team has used the situation to their advantage, putting out an invitation to fans to be the team’s goalie for a day.
The contest has a few stipulations; you must be eighteen to enter (not surprising, since the league rarely allows players under that age in the first place) and you must submit your goaltending resume to first be considered. Once you’re in, though, you get a chance to compete for the position under the supervision of Tuesday’s emergency backup and goaltending coach Rob Tallas — and winner of two selected finalists (who will compete in a shootout contest during the intermission of Florida’s game against the Montreal Canadiens) will be signed as the team’s practice goaltender for a day.
This serves as a double-hitter for the Panthers.
Not only do they get a goaltender to practice with the team in the absence of both their starter and their backup, but this provides the Atlantic Division franchise with the opportunity to connect with the community around them. It’s unlikely that the team will magically gain a full fanbase from the contest, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction towards establishing a relationship and building tradition with the residents of Sunrise, Florida.
Not a bad way to make use of a bad situation, Florida.