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Thursday November 19, 2009 12:24 am

Florida Panthers announce pair of new owners

Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Editorial, Front Office, NHL,

Steven ReinprechtCliff Viner and Stu Siegel of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment were announced as co-owners of the Florida Panthers this past Monday. Prior to the announcement, the pair were simply minority owners who wanted to purchase the team from previous owner Alan Cohen, and have said they are committed to setting a vision and direction that will result in accountability, communication, and a winning culture throughout the organization. While they are not intending to make personal changes or interfering in the day-to-day actions of the current front office staff, they have said that they will step in if necessary in order to turn around the Panthers franchise.

The Panthers have been struggling for years. On the ice, they’ve shown marginal improvements each season since 2000, but have only made the playoffs once. Adding players to the roster like Steven Reiprecht, Nathan Horton, and Cory Stillman to the roster has helped provide a jolt of youth and skill to the team. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work to be done to turn the Panthers into a perennial contender. And that all may start with Viner and Siegel. A team with direction from the top of the ladder is sure to have a trickle-down effect to the staff and players and fans.

The new owners have shown a commitment to taking a back seat when it comes to operations, but also claim to be very accessible to fans and media and are committed to setting a direction for the franchise that will result in a winning organization, beginning at the draft and minor leagues and continuing right through the playoffs. This message could not be simpler, and it’s the most appropriate message to give to fans at a time like this. They want to win. For a drowning hockey team in a market like Florida’s, Viner and Siegel’s simple message goes a long way.

Is new ownership enough to save a struggling franchise? The fact is that this team just isn’t selling tickets. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since 2000, when they were promptly swept away by the New Jersey Devils. A new pair of guys writing the checks is not as good news as if there weren’t millions in debt. The fact that they’ve inherited that load brings a lot of new things into question, such as what they actually intend to do with the franchise down the road. They are local owners, so that might not actually be the case. However, the only other option certainly seems to be to lose millions more.



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