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Could The Florida Panthers Be Facing Relocation?

March 19th, 2014 | by Codey Hansen
Could The Florida Panthers Be Facing Relocation?
Atlantic Division
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Recently it has come up that the Florida Panthers are bleeding money and have asked Broward County for a “bail out.” The numbers have been thrown around on how much the team is losing per season, roughly $20 million and is in desperate need of some type of help, but how badly exactly? The team has asked the county to rework the current lease on the arena, picking up the remaining $80 million it owes over the next 14 seasons. Some of the county representatives are in favor of helping, while others aren’t so much. This will lead to a long debate back and forth on just how much should be done from both sides to help the financial burden.

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We all know the struggles the Panthers have faced over the years, losing season after losing season simply cannot make for good attendance or income. However in recent years with acquiring good, young prospects through the draft, and now with an owner who has shown willingness to pay for a quality product on the ice , that may soon turn around. I say this all the time when it comes to the Panthers, “You have to spend money to make money.” But do I believe the ownership should front $70 million a season towards the payroll of the team, on top of an additional… let’s just say $8 million or so in lease payment, insurance on the building and other such expenses and in turn the county shell out around $12 million but in turn take in the tourism money produced through opposing teams and fans showing up without sharing a single penny? Absolutely not!

While I may not be a resident of Broward county and it not exactly affecting me in any way, I feel that it’s in the county’s best interest to assist the team in any way possible, while of course still making some kind of profit themselves. Every deal has to be mutually beneficial for both parties in order to make it work and this simply won’t cut it. The whole situation can be compared to last season’s NHL lockout, on a smaller scale of course. The team recently, but not officially threatened a relocation if a new deal was not reached to assist them with financial burdens. From the looks of things, the county is simply asking for some form of compensation in return for picking up more of the finances on the BB&T center in profits based off of events held at the arena.

With the team soon to be improving with young talent and potentially signing free agents in the coming off-seasons, revenue from games will surely go up. South Florida is notorious for fans being bandwagoners and jumping on anything that’s hot and the Panthers are not any different. Just look at the playoff attendance they generated in 2012 and that should be evident enough. If, for whatever reason, the team still does not turn a profit after the county picks up some of the bills, then they would continue on as is without paying anything extra to the county. When the team begins to make a profit and sells tickets, or continuously making the playoffs, that is where the county would step in and get their piece of the cake, which everyone will enjoy.

This is where the negotiations will come in and will need to be worked on; the Panthers with their current offer are looking to have their cake and eat it too.

What would it cost for the Panthers to relocate in case you were wondering? Well $80 million to start, to pay off what’s remaining on their current 14 year lease. The Panthers ownership has shown the willingness to spend money, but will they be willing to put up that amount of cash on top of any relocation fees they may have and the next seasons predicted payroll of around $70 million just to get their way and MAYBE make a profit over the next few years? It’s highly doubtful, especially since it appears that they’ve already set up camp in south Florida with their families and seem to be enjoying it. It’s all one big game of poker and each player is bluffing, its only a matter of time until one or the other calls the bluff and we see who’s really got the winning hand.

If the relocation thing does become a real possibility, be prepared for all sorts of lawsuits from the county against the Panthers ownership. I’m sure the loss of revenues and everything else the county could face would be devastating for the economy, and I doubt they would be willing to let it happen without some sort of compensation.

4 Comments

  1. Ted says:

    Of course the Panthers are going to relocate! Heck, they can do ALL they want to try to survive in South Florida, and they’ll still have to move. Why? The answer is realignment! When the NHL re-aligned itself after the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg, it slid Detroit and Columbus over to the East where they belong. That creates a 16-team Eastern Conference in which no team will ever go back West. However, the vacancy in Quebec City is still glaringly obvious to the league, and with a new arena being built up there, the inevitable question will arise at some point: How the @#$% do we get a team back in Quebec? Expansion would not work as it would add a 17th team to the East. When you’re trying to balance out the conferences, that’s the last thing you’d want to do. Relocation would then become the only other option, but it makes no sense whatsoever (again, due to the alignment) to move the Coyotes there. That means relocation of an Eastern Conference team would be the ONLY solution. And since both Florida teams have the most travel within the conference (and division, for that matter), moving the Panthers to Quebec City is the ONLY thing the league can do to get a team back in Quebec AND allow Tampa to align itself in the correct division. And if you think that any other Eastern teams should move before the Panthers, let me tell you that the Blue Jackets, Islanders and Devils are going NOWHERE! The same goes for Carolina and Tampa. The time has come to move the Panthers to greener pastures, to a place where their young talent can be seen by a sold-out arena with rabid fans and supporters! At this point going forward, it would be the ULTIMATE EMBARRASSMENT to the NHL by keeping fans in Quebec waiting because the Panthers can’t sort their $%#@ out!

  2. James W says:

    Ted,
    Full marks on you ENTHUSIASM!! At this point, expansion is the only way that Quebec will get a hockey team and, as you are aware, there would need to be another western team before expanding in the east.
    Quebec had an NHL team and lost it. Its a small market (smaller than the Panthers) and would not generate the same amount of $$’s for the NHL. The Panthers have new owners who are committed to the club and are spending money to make the team more competitive, unlike most of the previous owners. The Panthers are also under contract until 2028 for the current location and there is no way that the NHL would be interested in moving them until at least that point in time.
    I hope you do get your team at some point, but it wont be the Panthers.

  3. Ted says:

    James, I respect your comment, and I agree that the Panthers are trying everything they can to make it work down there. But even if the league does decide to expand to QC and Seattle, it simply would not solve the imbalance in the conferences. Detroit and Columbus are just not going back to the West, and neither will any of the other Eastern Conference teams, so simply moving an Eastern team to the West to make room for Quebec just cannot work. Even though Gary Bettman says otherwise, most fans and players do not like this unbalanced conference set-up, despite the new wild-card playoff format, which makes it a little bit fairer to the Eastern teams. Although the West is clearly the better conference right now, it’s still mathematically easier to make the playoffs in the West because there are two less teams. Listen, I’m all for a return to Quebec City, don’t get me wrong, but I would have to think that evening up the conferences and divisions with two western expansion teams should be just as a top priority for the league as returning to Quebec is. Expansion to QC and Seattle would also create a division with nine teams (the Atlantic) and leave the Central with just seven. Again, that just does not work out very well. We’ve already been through that with Major League Baseball, and we saw that they had to move the Astros to the AL just to balance things out. They had no other choice, and that’s the situation the NHL is in now regarding the Panthers and a return to Quebec City. I do have respect for the Panthers organization, just like I do all the Sun Belt hockey teams. I’m not a purist that wants more teams in Canada or in the northern US. I’m just speaking from a logical point of view on how the league can get back to Quebec and still even out the conferences and divisions, which would satisfy pretty much everybody (except Broward County, of course, but again, there’s no other choice). The bottom line is that the Panthers, where they are now, simply just don’t fit anymore from an alignment standpoint, regardless of how good (or bad) a job Vinnie Viola does in running that team, or how good the team gets on the ice. Heck, they could go on a miracle cup run, get their fans to come to the arena in large droves again, and they’d still have to be moved! Furthermore, how can you say that a return of the Nordiques wouldn’t generate more $$$$ for the league than the Panthers currently do? I understand the Panthers and the BB&T Center make a lot of profits off of concerts and other events, but the team itself is losing tons of money. We all saw what happened when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, and how much more $$$$ the league is raking in off of that. Would the NHL be stupid enough now, after the Thrashers’ situation transpired, to leave the Panthers where they are now when they know the team itself could be much more profitable in Canada? The Panthers are one of only two franchises (the other being the Coyotes) that still have consistent problems with attendance and both those clubs have difficulties in making a profit on their own when everyone else in the league can at least break even every year. And don’t forget that the travel issues of BOTH Florida teams will come into play as well, because Tampa voted no on re-alignment since they didn’t want to be lumped in the “snowbird” division that the Panthers essentially created. In fact, the difference in the overall viability and relevance of the two Florida NHL franchises is so great now that I think Tampa should have every right to be placed in the Metro Division, where they can have reduced travel and more natural rivals. Only the Panthers need to be in the Atlantic, so they can draw better with the Canadian teams. The league didn’t need to screw Tampa over so badly, even though from a logistical point of view it does make sense keeping the two Florida teams together. So, like it or not South Florida, the league has to eventually move your team so that Quebec can get their team without screwing up the alignment. It might happen next summer, or it might not happen until 2028, but it’s as inevitable as an earthquake hitting California! I wonder how Nordiques fans would react if they knew that they wouldn’t get their team back until 2028? You’d be hearing chants of “Bettman Sucks!” from all across Canada, and it would probably turn into the biggest embarrassment that the league has ever known! It would be on par with having another lockout, and the game certainly doesn’t need that when it’s more healthy and stable right now than it’s ever been! Sure, Quebec lost their team, but it wasn’t the lack of fan support that caused them to leave. Their fans are perhaps the most passionate in all of Canada, and with the economics of today’s NHL, it can work again in Quebec. Obviously, there are some issues with placing another team in French Canada (Remember the Eric Lindros saga?), but to deny the hockey fans in Quebec City another chance because an arena in South Florida needs an anchor tenant for concerts and other events is simply ridiculous! I’m not a Nordiques fan, BTW, I’m from NY and I am a true-blood Islanders fan. But I root for the game of hockey just as much, and to see the Panthers struggling to make money and drawing fans when a new arena is being built in Quebec is just something that seems way too obvious, regardless of how much the Panthers mean to the city of Sunrise. Maybe I’m wrong, and the league can find a way to expand to Quebec without causing more problems, but I just can’t see that happening. There’s no way the NHLPA will allow Quebec to be in the West, and there’s also no way that the league would want a 17-team Eastern Conference, even if they expand to Seattle as well. The NHL has forced themselves into this situation, and it’s about darn time for Bettman and the BOG to do something about it, instead of putting it off for another 14 years.

  4. James W says:

    Ted,

    If the west got two more teams, wouldn’t that solve the “imbalance problem”. After that they could expand 2 teams at a time, one in the East, one in the West – maybe even to Quebec….

    I appreciate that you have a pretty good idea of how you think things would work out fine for everybody, but I’m interested as to where the these concrete facts come from? Seriously,

    Reading your post, it seems that you are under the impression that Bettman and the Panthers are in collusion in an evil plot to deny the return of NHL hockey to the far more deserving city of Quebec!! Shock!! Horror!!

    >>”but to deny the hockey fans in Quebec City another chance because an arena in South Florida needs an anchor tenant for concerts and other events is simply ridiculous!”<> I understand the Panthers and the BB&T Center make a lot of profits off of concerts and other events, but the team itself is losing tons of money<>>So, like it or not South Florida, the league has to eventually move your team so that Quebec can get their team without screwing up the alignment. It might happen next summer, or it might not happen until 2028, but it’s as inevitable as an earthquake hitting California! I wonder how Nordiques fans would react if they knew that they wouldn’t get their team back until 2028?<<<

    With doom and despondency! But it probably wouldn't be 2028 – probably just after the West gets 2 more teams to solve that imbalance problem you like to bring up. And again, this rock soild information comes from…..?

    Sorry if I seem a little disbelieving of your road map, but there is a big difference between fact and wishful thinking.

    Best regards

    James

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