Ran a story in Monday's Herald, commemorating the 15-year anniversary of the NHL awarding H. Wayne Huizenga a franchise to be run in South Florida. Yep, Dec. 10, 1992 was the birthday of what would become the Florida Panthers hockey organization.
Here's a link to my story, which ran Monday: 15 years of hockey
Talked to John Vanbiesbrouck last week for his take on hockey here. As goalie for the Rangers, he played in an exhibition game at Miami Arena where the ice melted in the crease, with ref Kerry Fraser telling him "make the most of it.''
Beezer recalls Fraser also telling him he would call things if the ice got too bad. They did. Then, the Lightning and Rangers played in a regular season game in Miami. The NHL was doing that all over; Halifax, Indy, Orlando. Only the game in Miami seemed to do the trick. The next day, Huizenga got his hockey team.
When it came to naming the franchise, Huizenga and his group (which just launched the baseball Marlins) decided traditional was the way to go. No Flamingos, no -- as Beezer said -- Miami Ice. "We thought of Miami
Ice with Don Johnson in his white, flaring coat,'' Vanbiesbrouck said. "We thought the logo had staying power, some depth to the research into the Panther. That helped. It still does.''
The team sold the Florida Panther as the endangered Everglades cat, which worked well. Huizenga also liked the name because it paid homage to his high school squad, the Pine Crest Panthers of Fort Lauderdale. Either way, not many NHL teams have kept the same colors and logos for 15 years. The Ducks, who came into the league with the Panthers, have changed colors or logos a few times. They even changed their name.
Here are some more quotes I culled from my research. Found them funny. Remember, the NHL game at Miami Arena was played on Dec. 9, 1992; the team was awarded the next day, on the 10th. All of these quotes came from Miami Herald stories from that time. Enjoy.
"The speculation on expansion is that it could happen as early as 1994, but I think the window will be from the next two to four years. We have the experience, we have the facility, and it doesn't matter who comes forward [to buy the team]. We know that possibly some of the owners will be down and we'll have the opportunity to address them." -- William Perry, executive director of the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority, on Dec. 8, 1993.
"This building is hockey ready. And we'd love to have a hockey team in Miami. We'd love to have the interstate rivalry." -- Mel Lowell, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dec. 9, 1993.
"We're real honored and privileged to bring the fourth professional sports team to the South Florida area. I think hockey will go over a bit better in South Florida than many people think it will." -- H. Wayne Huizenga after franchise awarded on Dec. 10, 1993.
"Our people will really hate your team. But really, it's great. The rivalry will be beneficial for both of us." – Lightning president (now current team broadcaster) Phil Esposito after franchise was awarded.
"We had two applicants who we had to get in. Why not do it? Plus, Miami's always been considered one of the premier sports locations in the country. Hey, I'm a good salesman. When two teams show an interest, I don't let them off the hook." – Los Angeles Kings’ owner Bruce McNall, talking about Miami and Anaheim being awarded teams.
"Flamingos! I couldn't picture hockey players with pink legs!" – Huizenga, after announcing the team would be called Florida Panthers. Other considerations: Flamingos, Stingrays, Ice and Storm.
“I am interested in the situation in Miami, and look forward to an opportunity to speak with Mr. Huizenga if he wishes to.’’ – Mike Keenan, who had been fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. Keenan, of course, would later work two stints with the Panthers as coach and general manager.