By Erin Brown
Lane Miller, the Florida Panthers VP of human resources, laughs when discussing her first experience with hockey. A native of New York City, Miller attended a Rangers game with her father and was put off by the sport's aggressive nature.
"I was absolutely horrified because all I saw was blood on the ice and people fighting," Miller said. "Not only on the ice, but the fans were all fighting with each other. I was sort of intimidated."
When Miller reflects on her 15-year career in the sports industry, which includes stints with the Philadelphia Flyers, NBA's 76ers and now Florida Panthers, she cannot imagine working elsewhere.
"I was lucky I was offered a position in sports," she said. "I ended up wondering how I could work in any other industry. I just love the sports culture. It tends to be entrepreneurial, dynamic, very teamwork-oriented. The people that sports attracts are the people I want to hang out with at work."
Miller began her career with Borders, the books and music retailer, when the company had just 13 stores. During her 14 years with Borders, she developed employee infrastructure as it grew to 300 stores.
Discovering a passion for human resources, the University of Colorado graduate joined Comcast-Spectacor in 2005. She quickly climbed the organization's corporate ladder, becoming vice-president of human resources within two years. Despite being one of the few women among executives, Miller said she never considered her ascension impossible.
"My predecessor and mentor was a woman, and because it's not in my nature to think I couldn't do something, it didn't occur to me," Miller said. "The reality was (sports are) very male-dominated. I was always practically the only woman in the room, especially when I got to the (executive level)."
When former Flyers CEO Peter Luukko joined the Panthers in 2015, Miller followed soon after. As part of her work, Miller oversees recruitment, talent management, employee relations and payroll for the Panthers, who employ 250 full-time individuals and about 1,000 part-timers.
Her responsibilities related to Florida's diversity and inclusion initiatives have been amplified in recent months, and she's proud of the progress the franchise has made.
"The events of the summer made it imperative we address this," Miller said. "I knew that the staff all wanted us to do something. We had to take action. No longer could we put this off and think of this as a nice thing to do."
Through surveys and conversations, Miller has facilitated the organization of committees to focus on education, workplace diversity and content and employee engagement. The first action which sprouted from her efforts resulted in the Panthers partnering with the Rally the Vote coalition to register fans to vote and encourage participation in the 2020 U.S. election. The team also became involved with RISE – the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality – a non-profit which focuses on social justice and race relations in sports.
"I feel really proud of the progress that we've made in a really short period of time because we have very passionate people," Miller said.
Those initiatives are in addition to the community outreach the team has built through the Florida Panthers Foundation. For instance, over the past four years, the Panthers have partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters in a school-to-work program with nearby Piper High School, where 84 percent of the student population is Black or Latinx.
Miller recognizes there is still more to be done in a unique market such as South Florida.
"We need to be diverse. We need to be inclusive. We need to be in the community helping others," Miller said. "It's a big responsibility. It's a big privilege sports have because of our high profile."