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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Panthers’ Steady Rise To Stanley Cup Final Started Two Years Ago

  • Extensive series of milestones achieved both on and off the ice
  • Executives look to make team a "destination franchise"
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The surprise appearance of the Florida Panthers in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final represents another milestone in the remarkable rise of one of the NHL’s historically lagging franchises.

For many years, the Panthers were singled out as a failure in league commissioner Gary Bettman’s long-running southern expansion efforts. That criticism piled up as the team failed to win a single playoff series between 1997-2021 and routinely finished in the NHL’s bottom five in attendance, including every season between 2017 and the start of the pandemic in 2020.

But in the last two years, the Panthers have won a league Presidents’ Trophy, signed a new media rights agreement with Bally Sports, completed a bevy of new sponsorships, hosted the 2023 All-Star Game, built attendance to the team’s best level in a decade, and are developing a new practice center and community ice facility in Fort Lauderdale.

As the team takes the next step in the Stanley Cup Final, set to begin at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday in Las Vegas, the numbers don’t lie: The franchise’s value has grown from $295 million in 2020 to the current $550 million.

“We talked a lot about making this a destination franchise,” said team president Matt Caldwell to Forbes. “That means it’s a place where people want to live, they want to build their families. They want to be in a community like South Florida and at the same time be part of a very first-class, top-tier hockey organization that has tradition and wins, that’s committed to winning the Stanley Cup.”

Vegas Frenzy

There has been no slow build for the Panthers’ opponents, the Vegas Golden Knights. 

They’re making their second Cup Final appearance in just six seasons of existence and have been a runaway commercial success from their inception, ranking among league leaders in numerous categories such as attendance, merchandise sales, and sponsorship.

The ticket resale market for this year’s Stanley Cup Final ranks as the fourth-most expensive NHL championship series on record, even factoring market decline from last year’s Colorado-Tampa Bay matchup.

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