In case you didn't notice, and I'm betting many didn't, the
Panthers had their first player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
Sure, Igor Larionov didn't spend much time in a Florida sweater,
but he still PLAYED for the Panthers.
Wrap your arms around that: A Hall of Famer who actually played
for the Panthers.
He must of really ticked off the Panthers because, as hard as this
is to believe, the franchise really whiffed on this one.
Congratulations to Mr. Larionov and his family for his official
induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
One of the top Soviet players of his day, Larionov won three
Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, but during the 2000-01 season --
which happened to be one of the worst in Florida history -- he scored
five goals with six assists in 26 games before those hapless Panthers
traded him back to the Wings.
Sure, the Panthers signing the 40-year-old Larionov as a free
agent in 2000 was a mistake. And there is no doubt a team like
Detroit, Toronto or Montreal wouldn't make a stink about a guy being
inducted into the Hall who only played in 26 games for them.
Yet, as bad as publicity has been for this Florida team, one would
think Larionov being inducted into hockey's hallowed hall would be
worthy of something. Anything.
One would be wrong.
Not a single word has come forth from the Panthers regarding one of
their alums getting into the hall. Perhaps it's because of the short time Larionov wore the
leaping cat on the front of his jersey. But an alum is an alum in my book, whether he played in one game or 1,000.
For a franchise supposedly trying to sell the game down here, and
this guy ain't sure they are, this was a major league error.
The Panthers' Den of Honor is a joke, everyone knows this.
But Larionov's HHOF induction gives the Panthers a chance to show
this franchise DOES have a little bit of history and isn't afraid to
The Panthers have a chance to make this thing right.
Instead of just showcasing John Vanbiesbrouck and Brian
Skrudland, the Panthers need to start honoring members of the
Hall of Fame with serious ties to the organization -- even if they
didn't earn those stripes playing for the Panthers.
I'm not saying start retiring numbers, but expand that Den!
Put in HOFer Denis Potvin (TV guy since Day 1), Bill Torrey too. I
say the Panthers also honor Bobby Clarke and Roger Neilson.
And, if and when Dino Ciccarelli (1998-99) finally goes into the Hall, honor him as well.
Put in Pavel Bure now. When Olli Jokinen says goodbye to the
game, he goes in too (not saying he's a Hall of Famer, but he added a lot to the franchise in his years here). That's a no-brainer. Joe Nieuwendyk? In. Roberto Luongo? Done.
Others like Paul Laus and Scott Mellanby need to be given some cred here as well.
This franchise needs to be more about hockey and less about
putting ads on anything bolted down. More about honoring the game and
less about inflatable cows, dancing girls and dancing bananas.
If the Panthers put hockey first, they might get more respect
around the league, might turn on people in this market to their
If they don't start honoring THEIR game, they're always going to
be the Panthers, a franchise on par with the Clippers (minus
the occasional playoff appearance, of course) and the Pirates.
I'm glad Igor Larionov had the class to briefly thank the Panthers
during his induction speech.
Perhaps one of these days the Panthers will get around to thanking
the only Hall of Famer to ever don their sweater.