Panthers fans. Tonight represents the dawn of a new era for this franchise as our Cats play their first game with Vinnie Viola and the Viola family as the owner.
Vinnie, along with his wife Teresa, sons John, Michael and Travis, and partner Doug Cifu, were introduced to South Florida last Friday and the expectations were clear and simple – this team is going to win both on and off the ice.
To that effect, GM Dale Tallon and his staff have orchestrated a series of moves over the last week to bolster our young and talented roster with talented veterans such as goalie Tim Thomas, defensemen Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney, and forwards Brad Boyes and Krys Barch.
It’s the season opener of the Cats’ 20th Anniversary Season and it kicks off a four-game road trip before the Panthers return to Sunrise for a “throwback” Opening Night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, Oct. 11.
It’s going to be a thrilling week-plus for Panthers fans, as well as everybody that works with our organization. With a lot of new faces in the locker room - not to mention the front office - it will be exciting to see how Head Coach Kevin Dineen shuffles the lines and defensive pairings and gets this team to gel as quickly as possible.
Regardless, there is no question we have a better team than we did a week ago, and with depth to go along with the burgeoning talent, there is every reason for our fans and the South Florida community to be pumped up about the start of the Panthers season.
As Vinnie said during his press conference last Friday, this organization now has a singular mission and purpose, and that is to put a winning team on the ice for our fans and for the entire community.
We’ve seen – as recently as the 2011-12 Southeast Division title season – how South Florida can rally around this franchise with passion and energy, and I’m starting to get a similar feeling with the anticipation and the optimism that is starting to surround this franchise again.
With Vinnie Viola and his family at the helm, a great GM in Dale Tallon, a passionate and committed coach like Kevin Dineen, and a roster that now boasts both talent and experience, I truly believe that this is the first step in a new era of success for this franchise, with a plethora of memorable moments for our fans.
With seven home games in “RED October” there is no shortage of opportunities for our fans to see the Cats at the BB&T Center, and they will also get a chance to experience some of the new changes to the arena, the most notable being the new Panasonic high definition scoreboard which will be officially unveiled – and named - next Friday.
But I know for our passionate fans they are most looking forward to seeing what this retooled Panthers team can do, beginning tonight against Stars. Hopefully you are able to tune in live to watch Billy and Goldie call the game, also with an exclusive first intermission interview with new owner Vinnie Viola.
It’s another opportunity to hear Vinnie’s vision for this franchise – a vision that should have all of South Florida excited and believing that RED is truly rising.
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