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Back in Time: Florida Panthers Returning to San Antonio?

Backfuture With the Phoenix Coyotes leaving San Antonio for the Portland Pirates, there aren't many places for the Florida Panthers to have an AHL affiliation next season.

As hard is this is to believe, the Panthers appear to be headed back to San Antonio.

If you thought the Rochester-Panthers marrage was rocky, it was nothing compared to the Panthers pairing with the Rampage.

The Panthers co-owned the AHL franchise with the San Antonio Spurs and things went well for a time.

But they soon soured. The team lost a lot of money and the Panthers soon wanted nothing to do with it. The Panthers final season there was during the lockout, with rising stars Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester playing there in 2004-05.

The Panthers had high hopes for that team, but Horton got hurt and the team was so Rampage bad the Panthers loaned Weiss and Bouwmeester to the Chicago Wolves (who signed with Vancouver on Monday) so they could get some playoff experience.

The two parted ways after that with the Panthers dediding it was better to split an affiliation in Rochester with Buffalo than stay in San Antonio. Alan Cohen ended up selling his share of the team back to the Spurs.

It was ugly -- and it set the Panthers development back a long way.

Now, there were some good times in San Antonio for sure. John Torchetti and Guy Charron coached the team at different points and were popular there. Of course, both of those guys are really cool and were good with the fans.

But the on-ice product was rarely good -- the team only made the playoffs once in the three years the Panthers were there.

For those in San Antonio, things are a little different these days. Mike Santos will be in charge of the team -- he helped run the Rampage during the rare times things were good between San Antonio and the Panthers -- and should supply some good players. The Panthers organization is much deeper than it was back then.

I'm not saying the Rampage will make the playoffs -- mainly because Rochester didn't last year -- but things should be better than they were before.

Chuck Weber, signed on to coach the Amerks last year, is employed by the Panthers and is expected to return and head up the Rampage.