By Alex O’Connor
Attendance at Florida Panthers games is once again becoming an issue for their organization. Last night, just 7,311 fans came out to see a 1-0 loss against the Ottawa Senators. The Panthers dropped to 0-2-1 on the season and are now under scrutiny not only for their product on the ice, but the lack of hockey interest in southern Florida. NBCsports.com focused specifically on Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, noting that he has played for packed houses with the Vancouver Canucks on a regular basis. In addition, The Miami Herald interviewed Luongo after the loss and he plainly said, “If we want to get some people in the stands, we need to start winning some games.” However, Luongo added that “He doesn’t pay attention to that stuff”, so it may or may not have a large effect on the team’s performance as a whole. Through the media’s attention on attendance and the team’s’ poor performance, the Panthers could be in for a tumultuous season that may put doubts in the minds of many who believe they will be in Florida for an extended period of time.
Social media also had a profound impact on the reach of this story. Numerous accredited sport commentators, writers and analysts were tweeting pictures of the empty stands from their vantage point. The pictures are stunning, as there are almost hundreds of seats open among each section. The most notable picture came from Bruce Garrioch, an award-winning sport journalist from the Ottawa Sun who tweeted a picture of the crowd at game time. The post has almost four hundred re-tweets and was one of many to point out the low attendance.
Another aspect that is hurting the Panthers organization is their lack of incoming revenue from ticket sales. On September, 17th of this year, an NBCsports.com article was published that pointed out the financial woes that the franchise was in. The title was “Panthers owners say they’re committed even though team has lost ‘tremendous amounts of money.'” These losses are between $20-$30 million annually, and are losses that they have asked Broward County in Florida to cover. This is an expense that will not be easily fixed and could loom over the organization for many more years. However, new owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu wrote a “vote of confidence” letter to Panthers fans in mid-September. In the letter they highlighted the acquisition of star goalie Roberto Luongo and how moves like this one is their commitment to the Panthers producing a Stanley Cup caliber team. Though this is encouraging that the owners are on board, they may need to find another avenue in which fans can once again become excited about their organization.