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VanMurph's View

VanMurph’s View: Things Are Changing

Monday, 11.21.2011 / 4:13 PM ET / Blogs
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VanMurph\u2019s View: Things Are Changing
And just like that, the Florida Panthers are in first place in the Southeast Division…A gritty win against one of the best teams in the East, combined with the Capitals loss Saturday night, has propelled our boys into third place in the Eastern Conference.

It’s the week of Thanksgiving and the Panthers are looking like real contenders. They have 23 points through 19 games. Compare that to 2010 when the Cats didn’t get their 23rd point until December 7th, which was 26 games into the season. And in 2009 it took 27 games to record our 23rd point on December 2nd. We are well ahead of the pace of the past few seasons, and we are off to our best start since Bill Clinton was the President.

For the first time in a long time, the Panthers posted a winning record for a calendar month.  While that may seem like a baby step to some, to me it’s huge. For a franchise mired in mediocrity (but setting the table for a long run of prosperity), October 2011 was the first real step toward relevance. All of the moves that were made in the off-season were positive, but until we saw whether or not they would translate into a competitive team, there was lingering doubt in the minds of a fan base that had become accustomed to empty promises and slow starts. But now reflecting back on October, it’s clear that this team possesses something it hasn’t for quite a while: the will to win.

Even with a so-so record at home, this team seems very much on its way toward building the confidence of its fans. Confidence is something that will only be gained by going out and making things happen. Get some home wins under our belt. Play well consistently. Put opponents away when the opportunity presents itself. With that, continued success on the road, and a steady grip on a spot in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, loyal followers will begin to put more faith in our boys’ ability to win any game they play. Fighting right down to the last second of games, and having success in coming back from multiple-goal deficits has given our fans a reason to begin realizing that this is not the Panthers they’ve known for years. This is Dale Tallon’s team. This is Dale Tallon’s coaching staff. This is Dale Tallon’s vision.  And Dale Tallon is a winner…

I sincerely hope that this success will continue to pique the interest of local fans, and that they begin showing up at the BankAtlantic Center on a nightly basis. I want our guys to come home from road trips to the comfort of a crowd teeming with red Panthers jerseys and cheering fans. Saturday night’s crowd, while containing a lot of Pittsburgh fans, was an example how much this fan base wants to stand and support a winner. From where I sit in section 118, I saw nothing but fans on their feet for the last three minutes of the game, excitedly following the movement of the puck and reacting passionately to every play. This game was about more than just a win for the Panthers’ faithful. It was about finally having a chance to stand and shout down an obnoxious group of out-of-towners and send them home with that same feeling we’ve felt so many times before. For a change, it was like the Panthers were playing a home game instead of a road game in their own building.

(Eliot Schechter)

Speaking of road games; I went on the road with my wife to follow the Panthers on their two-game swing through the Midwest. I have to say that the performance in Dallas was the most-impressive hockey clinic I’ve seen from this team. It was apparent from the first drop of the puck that the Panthers came to play. The first period was so overwhelmingly in our favor that the Dallas fans around us joked that they couldn’t wait for the second period to begin so they could finally get a good view of their team (on the nearer end of the ice). The Panthers took 37 shots in the first period alone (14 SOG, 16 blocked shots, and 7 that went high or wide). Dallas took 7 total (4 SOG). I was so impressed with how the Panthers defense collapsed around the puck and immediately cleared the zone and went on the attack. It was just a thing of beauty. Watching them get set up time and time again in Dallas’ end, and maintain puck possession, was amazing. I could almost feel our guys gelling. You could see that they were completely comfortable with their roles and their teammates.

By the end of the night, it was also apparent that they were doing whatever it took to preserve Clemmer’s shutout.  I’ve left a lot of buildings as a proud Panthers fan, but never before have I left a building with our team tied in points for first place in the Southeast Division in mid-November, and I’ve certainly never left any building with the fans of the opposing team talking about what a dominating performance the Panthers put on. It was a very satisfying experience.

(Jose Morales)

Then…we went to St. Louis. That was not a good night to be a Panthers fan. But since we sat in the club section at Scottrade Center (and the beer was free), it didn’t hurt too badly. It was just one of those nights where you brush it off, tip your hat to the competition, then get on your flight home. And that’s exactly what we did.  

On to a completely different topic.Over the course of the last few months, the subject of noisemakers has appeared in a couple of blog entries here on the Panthers’ website, and both of the mentions were negative. It seems that some people have a hard time with their fellow fans coming to the games and cheering for the Panthers with all of the means available to them.

I’m talking specifically about the cowbells. And in the interest of full disclosure I’ll freely admit that my wife and I were unwittingly responsible for them becoming prevalent at Panthers games several seasons ago, although at the time I had no idea that it would become what it has or that some would see it as controversial years later. I explained the impetus behind bringing cowbells to games in an article I posted in October of 2008. Back then I wrote, “The introduction of the cowbell into the BankAtlantic Center was actually born of my utter exasperation with watching the team I love play HOME games with the look and feel of road games due to the opposing teams’ fans running amok in OUR HOUSE. There were times when I literally felt sick to my stomach as we were out-numbered in the stands by a 2-1 margin and the opposing team scored a goal. Listening to thousands of people cheer for the other team while our guys were crestfallen made me angry. My goal became doing something that would let the Panthers know there were true Panther die-hards in the stands who cared about them, and appreciated when they did things well.” In the article I went on to explain how the fans and the organization embraced the movement, and how it immediately grew. The entire article can be found here: http://panthers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=442255

(Eliot Schechter)

To answer the question that was implied in the aforementioned disparaging blog entries, “What does a cowbell have to do with a Panther?” the simple answer is: Nothing. “Nothing” is also the answer to these questions: What does ‘Sweet Caroline’ have to do with the Boston Red Sox? What does a rally monkey have to do with the Los Angeles Angels? What does a groundhog have to do with extended winters? Again, absolutely nothing. But does the cowbell (or any other custom) really need an explanation in order to be a justifiable convention? It’s a noisemaker, period. It serves its purpose.  

Listen, I can completely understand why someone would have a problem with a fan incessantly pounding away on a cowbell without regard for the people around them. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to endure that. But to just call for their outright banning in the BankAtlantic Center (based on a self-conducted “study”) is wrong. I’ve said it literally hundreds of times over the years, and I’ll say it again; this is a hockey arena, it’s not the opera and it’s not the library. Our players absolutely feed off of the energy in the building, and let’s face it, the BankAtlantic Center is oftentimes one of the least energetic venues in the National Hockey League. Last season, on Opening Night, I could almost count the people who were on their feet during player introductions. Juxtapose that to Los Angeles (who is a second six team that has never won a Stanley Cup in its 40+ year existence), where I didn’t see a single fan sitting in their seats for player introductions nearly two months into a mediocre season. That lack of fan participation in our building was also part of the motivation for the cowbells making their first appearance at the BankAtlantic Center. I’m not telling anyone how to support their team, but I simply cannot help but rally behind these guys when they come out onto the ice before the game and at the start of each period. And I also can’t just sit there quietly when they do something that I find exciting (clearing the puck on a penalty-kill, an extended possession in the offensive zone, a tremendous hit, a great save, a fight, etc.)

(Eliot Schechter)

It was said that because we have a whole new team this year, the atmosphere in our house will be different; that there would be no need for noisemakers. I have to ask if anyone really believed that? I mean seriously? Judging from the attendance and fan participation so far this season (with the exception of the last five minutes of the Pittsburgh game), it appears that nothing has changed. And in all honesty, I didn’t expect it to. As is the case in every professional sport in South Florida, the fans will not show up until the team wins. And even then (Heat), the places rarely (if ever) sell out. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say we have turned the corner for good and finally have something to stand up and cheer for; wouldn’t it make sense to encourage the fans to make as much noise as possible? After all, it’s a proven fact that players in nearly every sport respond to fan support. And for those of you who’ve attended games in other arenas, you know just how much a crowd who’s cheering for the home team adds to the atmosphere. And I will also say that having your crowd drowned out by thousands of the other team’s fans is disheartening to our players. If we don’t stand up for our team, no one will. If we continue to allow other fan bases to act like they own our building, it won’t stop.

(Eliot Schechter)

It all comes down to each individual’s preferences. If you don’t want to stand up and show your support, that’s your prerogative. But on the other hand, if you can’t help but bounce out of your seat and cheer for every single play that excites you, more power to you. Who am I, or anyone else, to tell you how to support your team? Trying to enforce our own preferences on other people (and that is exactly what’s happening here) creates a very slippery slope. Where do you draw the lines? Some people may find it completely annoying that the person behind them yells “atta boy!” at every player who does something worthy of approval. Do you tell him to shut up? Do you just glare at him, or what? Should we just establish a moratorium on cheering for anything other than goals? Personally, the only thing that bugs me at our rink is the nightly invasion we are forced to endure. When I actually see a fan standing a cheering their heart out for the Panthers, I get a smile on my face.

(Eliot Schechter)

If you don’t like cowbells, I respect that. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But why try to rain on the parades of other passionate fans who simply want to encourage their team in a way that is different from the way in which you choose?

(Eliot Schechter)

Noisemakers (including cowbells) have been around for centuries. They’re not going away, so just embrace them and join in. Cowbells in particular have been a staple of youth hockey for decades. My friend Jerry Cattelane, who’s been playing hockey since he was 4 years old (now in his 30’s), remembers fondly his mother ringing her cowbell at his games when he was kid in upstate New York. I have heard noisemakers such as cowbells, air horns, vuvuzelas, and a host of others at NHL venues in Philadelphia, Washington, Calgary, Carolina, Montreal, Chicago, Vancouver, San Jose, Tampa, Detroit, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. They continue to be a popular-selling item at PantherLand and out at Saveology.com Iceplex. The bottom line is that they are simply an effective means of increasing the level of energy in the building. And besides, if Christopher Walken wants it, needs it, has a fever for it, that’s enough for me…

As has been the case since I began writing this blog, I welcome your feedback.  If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I can be reached on facebook via “Murphy Burch”, by email at VanMurph@hotmail.com  or on Twitter @Van_Murph

Thanks for stopping by the blog. It’s been a good season so far. Here’s to fantastic remainder!





1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Jagr 49 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 52 10 27 10 37
A. Barkov 42 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 52 10 25 12 35
V. Trocheck 52 17 16 4 33
R. Smith 52 16 15 11 31
B. Pirri 48 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 48 10 12 21 22
B. Campbell 52 4 16 17 20
N. Bjugstad 37 9 8 -3 17
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

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