Florida Panthers Trying To Find Fans, Not Wins

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Photo by bridgetds

The Florida Panthers are mixing up their practices a little bit, forming what they’re calling a Rink Coalition of different ice rinks around South Florida. The Panthers will hold public practices at the various member rinks.

George Richards loves the idea because it’ll help spread hockey around Florida.

It’s a smart move from a marketing perspective, but from a hockey perspective, it seems like it’s going to be more work for the players and a bit of a distraction.

There are two ways for teams to attract new fans: marketing gimmicks and post-season success. The Panthers are being realistic in terms of their chances of even making the post-season, but it would be nice if they put half of the effort into building a successful team that they put into forming a Rink Coalition.

For example, let’s look at Michael Frolik. The struggling Frolik has not only been bumped down to the fourth line, but he’s now being asked to play center. Frolik says he hasn’t played center in seven years.

Historically, Frolik’s been a 20-something goal guy, but this season he’s struggled, with just eight goals in 48 games. A new position on the fourth line is not going to get him going. Although, eight goals is going for the Panthers — Frolik is tied for fifth on the team in scoring.

I appreciate and respect that the Panthers are trying to figure out how to grow new hockey fans in a non-traditional hockey market. And the Rink Coalition is a creative idea. But wouldn’t fans also be attracted to a playoff-bound team? Wouldn’t fans turn out for a team averaging more than 2.63 goals per game? Wouldn’t fans enjoy a team without the league’s worth power play conversion rate?

And couldn’t the Panthers grow their fan base and try and field a competitive team, complete with natural centers?

Fans love open practices, but they’re probably even more impressed by winning. The Panthers are only eight points out of a playoff spot with almost $9 million in cap space. It would be great to see the Panthers try and make a serious playoff push. Or at the very least, find some more centers somewhere.