There's really no way to sugarcoat this: It's been a long, lousy summer for fans of the Florida Panthers.
And after suffering through eight years without a playoff appearance, these are fans that know from long and lousy.
Sure, they might have caught a break at the draft when two-way blueliner
And who are the Panthers trotting in on the white horse?
This is a team so bereft of offensive firepower that coach
Oh, and GM
OK, so maybe the news wasn't
In fact, Martin's departure might just be a harbinger of better things to come.
Reports have been circulating for two months now that the day-late, dollar-short Panthers would be sold to Sports Properties Acquisitions Corp., essentially a venture capital operation created specifically to scoop up distressed operations. Word came down this week that the complex $240 million deal involving the team and management rights to the arena and a significant parcel of surrounding land is closer to consummation.
There's still considerable ground to be covered before the transaction becomes official. Because it's a public company, there's the matter of a shareholder vote (no sure thing given all the glowing financial headlines generated by the Coyotes of late) and Securities and Exchange Commission approvals on the honey-do list, along with that pesky character and integrity check from the NHL. But if all goes well, the sale is on track to be finalized before Panther fans start tracking the daily progress of Windsor Spitfires center
Amazingly, SPAC isn't looking to move one of the league's most dysfunctional, and least supported, franchises to a more lucrative landing spot. Good news for fans who were hearing their team's name mentioned as a possible target for relocation.
But in true Panthers fashion, even a sale might not relieve them of their biggest concern.
But don't step off the stool just yet. There's a good chance that the consortium could install another leader, possibly
Murstein, in an interview with the AP, named
Probably not the words that'll help convince 70 percent of SPAC's shareholders to approve the deal, but if it is a genuine preview of SPAC's modus operandi? These guys may be the best thing to happen to Miami since the mojito.
Here's hoping Murstein is true to his word, because the yellowing pages of history remind us that hockey in South Florida can work. But here's one thing they should keep in mind before entering into this arrangement. If they want to keep their shareholders happy, all they have to do is keep their customers happy. And for the customers to be happy, this team needs to get better fast. Not just, "Gee, we had our second best season ever and almost made the playoffs" better. But actually, "When do playoff tickets go on sale?" better. That entails taking the time to make the best choice for GM (not just the safe choice in
Nothing beats a single, well-funded, passionate owner (not that anyone like that is sniffing around the NHL these days, right?), but as far as options go, this SPAC thing might just work out. Based on the current Panthers roster there might be one more long summer ahead, but with some solid leadership it could be the last one for awhile.