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The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in Sunrise, Floridamarker, in the South Florida metropolitan areamarker. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). They play their games at the BankAtlantic Centermarker in Sunrise.

Franchise history

Blockbuster Video magnate H. Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise for Miamimarker on December 10, 1992. The Panthers were brought into the league with the Anaheim Ducks and took part in the 1993 expansion draft, which was hosted by the Quebec Nordiques. The expansion draft produced 10 players that would be a part of the 1996 Eastern Conference championship team. The team played at the Miami Arenamarker, and its first major stars were New York Rangers goaltender castoff John Vanbiesbrouck, rookie Rob Niedermayer, and Scott Mellanby, who scored 30 goals. Their first game was a 4-4 tie on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks. The first win in franchise history was a 2-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Thunderdomemarker before a then-NHL record crowd of 27,227. The Panthers had one of the most successful first seasons of any expansion team (and the best first year of any NHL team), finishing one point below .500 and narrowly missing out on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their first-year success was attributed mainly to the "trap defense" that first-year coach Roger Neilson implemented. This conservative style was widely criticized by NHL teams; some even suggested that the Panthers were ruining the game at the time.

After missing another close brush with the playoffs in 1994–95, Neilson was fired and replaced by Doug MacLean. The team then acquired Ray Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline in 1995–96 and looked toward the playoffs for the first time.

Also during that season, a very unusual goal celebration developed in Miami. On the night of the Panthers' 1995–96 home opener, a rat scurried across the team's locker room. Mellanby reacted by "one-timing" the rat against the wall, killing it. That night, he scored two goals, which Vanbiesbrouck quipped was "a rat trick." Two nights later, as the story found its way into the world, a few fans threw rubber rats on the ice in celebration of a goal. The rubber rat count went from 16 for the third home game to over 2,000 during the playoffs.

In the 1996 playoffs, as the fourth seed, the Panthers faced the Boston Bruins in the first round and won in five games. Bill Lindsay's famous series-clinching goal is still a trademark image for the incredible run the third-year franchise went on. The Cats went on to upset the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in six games and then the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in seven (with Tom Fitzgerald scoring what would end up being the game-winning goal) to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, swept the Panthers in four games. Uwe Krupp scored the winning goal on a slap shot from the blue line for the Avalanche in the third overtime of Game 4 to defeat the Panthers 1-0. Colorado was led by captain Joe Sakic in the franchise's first year in Denvermarker after moving from Quebec Citymarker.

The Panthers would begin the next season with a 17–game unbeaten streak but faded in the second half of the season. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Wayne Gretzky-led Rangers in five games.

The 1997–98 season would be a return to mediocrity for the Panthers. After a 7–12–4 start, the Panthers fired MacLean, replacing him for the season with general manager Bryan Murray. The change did not aid matters, as Florida suffered a franchise-worst 24–43–15 record, including a 15–game winless streak. This season would also mark the end of Vanbiesbrouck's time in Florida, who in the midst of that streak, was shelled by the Chicago Blackhawks and never played another game for the Panthers. He would sign with the Flyers that off-season as a free agent.

Florida's alternate logo; a palm tree and a hockey stick crossing one another over a sun.
The Panthers moved into the brand new National Car Rental Center (now known as BankAtlantic Centermarker) in 1998. In 1998–99, they acquired Pavel Bure (the "Russian Rocket"), in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks. They reached the playoffs again in 1999–00, losing in a first-round sweep to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils.

The team slumped in 2000–01. The following season, 2001–02, the Panthers had their worst record ever. Bure struggled despite being reunited with his brother Valeri, and was traded to the Rangers at the 2002 trading deadline.

The Panthers then started coveting defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who was widely tipped to be picked first overall in the 2002 draft. But then-General Manager Rick Dudley sent Florida's first pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who took winger Rick Nash. The Atlanta Thrashers, after picking goalie Kari Lehtonen second overall, announced that the Panthers had given them two draft picks to guarantee that Bouwmeester would still be available for Florida's selection. Bouwmeester was selected third overall by the Panthers. Said then-head coach Mike Keenan, "We shouldn’t have done that ... Jay would have been number-one if we'd kept that pick."

In 2003, the Panthers hosted the NHL All-Star Weekend in which the Western Conference earned a 6–5 victory after the first OT shootout in All-Star history. The West overcame a four-goal outburst by Thrashers winger Dany Heatley, who took home MVP honors in his first All-Star Game.

On June 23, 2006, the Panthers were again involved in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks, sending Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, and a sixth-round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov) in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld, and Bryan Allen. This trade has been regarded by some as one of the worst trades in professional sports history. Luongo who was and still is at the prime of his career is one of the top goalie's in the NHL has continued his success in Vancouver, challenging Martin Brodeur for the Vezina trophy each of the past two seasons. Bertuzzi only played a handful of games for the Cats before getting injured. He would be traded to Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline. Alex Auld ended up being a poor replacement for the Panthers former franchise goalie and was subsequently traded to the Boston Bruins after one season.

On June 22, 2007, the Florida Panthers were involved in yet another draft day deal involving a goalie. The Florida Panthers acquired Tomas Vokoun from the Nashville Predators in exchange for three draft picks, a first round pick in 2008, a second round pick in 2008, and a conditional second round pick that can be used in 2007 or 2008. The move would eventually pay off when Vokoun was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

On July 28, 2007, the Florida Panthers unveiled their new jerseys to over 11,000 fans at the BankAtlantic Center during the first intermission of the Panthers 1996 Reunion game. Star forwards Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss were both in full gear to help showcase the sweater changes.

As of 2008, the Florida Panthers are the only team in the NHL to have a lifetime winning percentage of .500 or better over the Montreal Canadiens, the winningest team in the NHL history with 24 Stanley Cup titles.

In June 2008, the Panthers traded their captain Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes for a second round draft pick and two defensemen: Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton.

The Panthers finished the 2008–09 season with a strong 41-30-11 record and 93 points, their second best ever in franchise history. Despite this, however, the Panthers missed the playoffs for an eighth straight season, the current longest streak in the NHL.

On June 2, 2009 reports surfaced that Sports Properties Acquisition Corporation has bid $240 million to purchase the Florida Panthers and Bank Atlantic Center.

On November 23, 2009 the Panthers made their third jersey change, ridding red from the home jersey.

Season-by-season record

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Panthers. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Florida Panthers seasons.

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Records as of the end of the 2008–09 season.

Season GP W L OTL Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
2004–05 Season cancelled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout
2005–06 82 37 34 11 85 240 257 1255 4th, Southeast Did not qualify
2006–07 82 35 31 16 86 247 257 1059 4th, Southeast Did not qualify
2007–08 82 38 35 9 85 216 226 1002 3rd, Southeast Did not qualify
2008–09 82 41 30 11 93 234 231 884 3rd, Southeast Did not qualify


Notable players

Current roster

Team captains



Honored members

Players
Builders


First-round draft picks



Franchise scoring leaders

These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Panthers player

Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
Olli Jokinen C 567 188 231 419 .73
Scott Mellanby RW 552 157 197 354 .64
Viktor Kozlov C 414 101 190 291 .70
Robert Svehla D 573 61 229 290 .51
Rob Niedermayer C 518 101 165 266 .51
Pavel Bure RW 223 152 99 251 1.13
Nathan Horton* C 357 122 116 238 .66
Jay Bouwmeester D 471 53 150 203 .33
Ray Whitney LW 273 97 130 227 0.83
Radek Dvorak* RW 400 78 107 185 .47


NHL awards and trophies

Prince of Wales Trophy

Rocket Richard Trophy

Franchise individual records



See also



References



External links




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