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Shhh..The Panthers have a Hall of Famer


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 tonight.

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 honor it.

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 product.

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.


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well said!

What about Paul Laus? Scott Mellanby? Rob Niedermeyer?

Anyone of those 20 or so guys that brought Hockey to South Florida!

Gotta love that picture of the guys at the pool just before the first season started!!!!!

I know there are a lot of players that you can include in the Den......

It just does not have to be the good ones!


Larionov is a class act. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. Once in Louisville when the Panthers played an exhibition game there. The other, he was a speaker at the booster club and he showed then what made him a great person, he took the time out of his schedule to meet the fans and talk about the history of hockey.

As far as the organization recognizing him you have to remember that as far as the organization goes the history starts with Yormark and it is a poor history at that.

I have long complained about the panthers not recognizing their history (how many people know that this is the year of the rat). The excuse back then (pre Yormark) was that as long as the players were still playing they were not going to be recognized by the organization.

Well, here we are and as you said there is Bure, and then there is the early team players.

If we leave it to just the Hall of Fame, you will not see Joe Nieuwendyk honored by the Panthers because he left the organization for greener pastures (Toronto really wants to win).

This organization is so poorly run that they don't even realize that they have violated their own licensing agreement with the cow bells, (the licensing agreement on the back of the ticket says no noise makers).

It is so sad to see that members of the ownership group are also owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning because "they want to increase their odds of winning a Stanley Cup".

With owners, the best person we have had in a long time in the front office (Joe Nieuwendyk) jumping ship for a chance to win, why would this organization expect that their fans will not jump off the sinking ship.

Until hockey becomes the primary focus of the front office (running the arena is the priority) then we will continue to be the laughing stock of the NHL.

If Cohen is not interested in putting a winning product on the ice then he needs to sell the team to someone that will and he needs to include the arena operations as that is where the value is.

Well said, George.

I have long despised Michael Yormark because he makes the game a joke. Sure, he's the advertising wunderkind but he should stay in the marketing department and let a real man, with real ties to the game (and perhaps the Panthers?) run how the Panthers present themselves to the league. Or at least as the Panthers highest ranking spokesman.

HINT: Bring back Skrudland!

Great blog George. You hit so many key points right on the money. This organization has always treated its players and fans terribly and only because some fans are so diehad that they even have any season ticket holders at all. This team has always been driven by overinflated egos, and it shows on the ice every night. Amazing how some players who have done so much for this organization (not Larionov of course but others) get discarded and trashed on their way out (Olli). Then we wonder why we have never ever ever been able to sign a top tier free agent. Why would any top player with options want to come to this mess?

Wow Richards, grat post. To be honest, I didn't even think about his time here when he was inducted last night, but you're right, the Panthers sure should have.

Thanks for the post.


I am so happy this came out of you. I have been saying EVERYDAY that this organization is a JOKE (on and off the ice).

They will not listen, they will just sell more ads for Wed night, hockey is on there long list and it is on the bottom of the list.

What a joke they are
What a joke


Sounds like things are getting as messy down there as they are up here in Rochester. The team works hard, but they're not even on the same level from a talent perspective--the coach even said it. Benoit Groulx has to be a little bitter about getting coaxed into this role by JM. I don't see Rochester getting more than ten or so wins, which certainly won't give these kids much confidence. Getting slaughtered by four or five goals isn't a good way to develop players, but there are more pressing issues at the NHL level, so I don't expect any changes.

Ok nice post, and way to come up with some ideas for honoring former players...Not to get too negative here, but it is too bad all we have to talk about are about 2 or 3 seasons out of about 14 or 15....Pretty sad and sorry I don't get jacked up like some over a guy that played 26 games, and there's probably not a jersey out there with this guy's name on it...However, you do come up with some creative stuff for honoring others throughout the organIzation....
For me, I would rather on solviing the problems of this organIzation, and try to find ways to improve our history through players that have played here for at least a good chunk of their careers....Since that will probably take time, I would love to hear some of George's and others' opininons on ways to improve this mess. I know it takes some time, but please feel free to give us your thoughts on players to keep, players to possibly pick-up, etc...I do realize you work close to the team and it is hard to scrutinize them individually, but try to give us some more of your opinions...Don't be afraid to be wrong because none of us are right all the time, it just would be nice for you to critique things a little more....

Olli Jokinen? a little out of place...

Maybe if he wins some championships before his career ends but calling him an all-star and calling him a hall-of-famer are 2 very different things. Pavel Bure's best chance at the hall probably remains in his Stanly Cup Final loss to the Rangers in 94. I think he'll make it but he may have to wait a while.

Olli Jokinen could make it but he's more then half-way through his career and less then half-way to the hall.

less about inflatable cows

Woa, woa, hold on here.

I wasn't implying that Olli is a Hall of Famer and I amended my post...and I'm not saying that Larionov's impact in Florida was anything more than minimal. But he's the FIRST guy to ever wear the Florida jersey and go into the Hall. Something should have been said. And, in that vein, I think the Panthers should honor all of their employees with HOF credentials. It would be a good start in trying to legitimize this organization down here. That's all.

The Panthers should retire the number of ONE jersey. That number is 96. The magical year that enables the casual hockey fan to latch on to the game and the team. Since that next game after that 1-0 loss to Colorado in the Miami Arena, it has been a downward spiral.

Retire 96..it's a tribute to that team..AND to THOSE FANS who stood by this train wreck and still do.

It's blog posts like this one and replys from people who say this organization is a joke that makes it so apparent why south florida shouldnt have a pro hockey team. Every time theres a mistep the blame immediately falls on the organization choosing sales and sponsors over hockey. This boggles my mind that on top of that the blame goes even farther to include the CEO or COO. Yormark seems to have control over the business side and the owners are in control of the hockey side.

If we're going strickly on doing their job Yormack appears to be doing his job well. He's only managed to keep a team who hasnt seen the playoffs in almost a decade around for you guys to moan about. Maybe if we as a fan base acted like we cared about history and hockey when we're not winning then the franchise would think to honor someone like Larinov.

If you're going to be a fair weather fan so be it but go post on the Canes or the Marlins instead. At least then the team will be sold faster, shipped off to Hamilton quicker and George Richards will have to find another way to piss his way to a paycheck.

comment of the week! month even. good to see someone from the panthers respond. and this was from the panthers, make no doubt. no fan would bring up the panthers' CEO, much less their COO....

Great blog GR, I totally agree that the Panthers need to expand the Den of honor. And tomorrow night whould definitely mention Igor Larionovs induction. He was gracious enough to mention the Panthers in his speech, they ought to show the same class and mention his induction during the intermission tomorrow night.

George, my husband and I are 14-year season ticket holders. I need to respond to Mike's comments. Just like you, GR, had to say what we all know - again. I have to say, again, the season ticket holders constantly remind the organization about the importance of the history of the Panthers. But, the main thing we complain about is how hockey is the side show of a Circus atmosphere. We've expressed this on the "Advisory Boards" numerous times. This is either ignored or appeased. Hockey needs to be the main event, that's what we are paying to see! We express this to the organization because we want HOCKEY to be the focus, not because we want to criticize the organization. Mike must be new to the organization to not realize how long fans have tried to communicate this. Also, I want Mike to know how much we appreciate, George, your efforts to keep us posted on our hockey team.

Why do we see other teams go from the bottom to the top over and over , but, we just see the Panthers on the bottom? JM is the latest failure--he decides one year to address the goalie problem, next the defense problem and is it possible that next year it will be the scoring problem? Other teams seem to find a way. But not this team of management. When is Weiss, Horton, Olesz, etc going to step up. Probably never- just more bad draft picks and guys who don't cut the mustard. As far as Niedermeyer being in the Panther ring of fame. He was the standard of stiffs that the Panthers have drafted in their history. When it was announced on draft day that he was traded for Valeri Bure huge cheers went up. Look who we got for Dan Boyle, Stu Barnes, Ray Whitney, Roberto Luongo, Scott Mellanby,etc etc
When will we get a GM who knows what he is doing?? Many northerners see that the fans don't support the team--and should be moved. If they would just make the playoffs and be competitive--the fans WILL show up. Who can blame Jay Bow if he wants to move along--with these knuckleheads in charge who could blame him.

The majority of comments above were written by sports fans, possibly hockey fans - but certainly not people knowledgeable about the overall history of the sport of hockey, and less so about the strategy of building a team.

To say JM is building the team wrong and mis-managing it is nothing short of a travesty. In fact most successful teams do build out from the net, and they do not do it in a single year.


Yes you can smell a post from the organization a mile away.

No one is questioning Yormark's business side doing well, the real question is at what cost to the hockey side. This organization made a decision a long time ago that they were going to merge the hockey and arena operations, what has happened is that hockey is an afterthought even at the hockey games.

While we don't know what the scouting budget is, I am sure it is nowhere near what other teams spend and it shows in the talent in the organization including the AHL.

The best thing that can happen is for Cohen to sell the team and the management of the building to someone interested in putting the money in the team to build a winner.

Unfortunately, when you draft the wrong players year after year and then sign them to long term contracts hoping that they will develop into something you get what we have.

Rob Niedermeyer did not score the goals that the team expected but at least he worked hard and played good defense, I would take Rob Niedermeyer any day of the week over a lazy player suchas Nathan Horton.

GR, your blog made hockey this morning.

Don't be afraid to be honest about what is happening especially since this team gets less coverage from the local media then paint drying.

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