Monday, February 9, 2009
Rookie coach Pete DeBoer is doing everything imaginable to get South Florida to take notice of his Florida Panthers. The latest attempt? "Panthers Promise." Fans who purchase a 4-game Panthers Promise ticket pack will be given priority access to playoff tickets. Should the Panthers not make the playoffs, those fans will receive free tickets to 4 games next season.
"I thought it was important to let fans know, to promise them, that our team will do everything possible to be successful on the ice over the next 31 games,” said DeBoer. “We’ve made no secret of our goal to make the playoffs this year, and we want fans to get excited and support us during the stretch run.”
This is a pretty big step for a team that has not seen playoff hockey since 2000. In fact, they still are on the outside looking in. The Panthers are 1 point behind 8th seed Carolina. But from the outset, Pete DeBoer has made this his team. Florida went from a boring, slow, trapping system under Jacques Martin that few people, in Florida or elsewhere, would be willing to pay good money to watch. Now, DeBoer has his one of the hardest working teams in the league; an aggressive, speed oriented, exciting brand of hockey that is slowly drawing the attention of hockey pundits everywhere. Over the past month, the Panthers have turned into a solid team, in every sense of the word. Only the Detroit Red Wings have more players at or above the 20 point plateau then Florida. The Panthers lead the league in defensive scoring contributions. Florida defensemen have scored 37 of the Cats 146 goals, a 25% clip. 9-3-3 in their last 15, Florida has reasserted themselves into the playoff picture.
It is no secret that the fan base in Sunrise is minimal, at best. Florida has had 24 home games so far this season, and rank 26th in the league in average attendance, with just under 15,000 tickets sold per game, but are dead last in percentage of seats filled. Even with $17 "total ticket" offers every game, which include 1 ticket, free parking, $5 gas card, and a Coke combo meal, people just are not coming to the Bank Atlantic Center for hockey. Granted, the Panthers have not been putting a product on the ice worth coming out for in past seasons, but this year has changed that. Pete DeBoer has changed that, and he is not content just changing the attitude on the ice. Now, he is going after the attitude in the stands, and keeping this latest promise to the fans could go a long way in creating an actual market for hockey in the sun of South Florida.