This Saturday the Zamboni in South Florida's Office Depot Center will be humming, the building will be chilled and former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck will be signing autographs as the Panthers face off against the Flyers--the Junior Panthers, that is, against the South Florida Flyers. The game, which caps a daylong youth-hockey tournament at the NHL Panthers' venue, may not be the Florida versus Philadelphia season opener that was scheduled, but the club is doing its best to keep fans enthused about hockey. Says Panthers COO Michael Yormark, "You don't want fans to forget about you."
With as many as 41 open dates to fill due to the lockout, the arena staff is looking for events to keep revenue streaming. The ideas have gone beyond hockey. The center added Cher to the December schedule and will be opening a theater for Vegas-style acts. Wayne Newton may not be relocating to Florida anytime soon, but the Panthers organization is thinking outside the penalty box in hopes of making it through the lockout with its fans--and its finances--intact. --Andrea Woo