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The Florida Panthers Are Losing Money but No Hope: A Fan’s Take

Gary Bettman, Naming Rights, Nhl Lockout

The Florida Panthers are losing money but is a small hockey market really to blame? Forbes recently released their annual list of NHL teams and their current values. The Cats ranked 24 on the list of 30 teams in current value at an estimated $170 million.

Forbes estimates that the club was in the red in operating expenses last season by $12 million. This is especially bad news for Cliff Verner, who bought the team in 2009 for $200 million.

Behind the Numbers

Despite how the financials look on paper there’s no reason for doom and gloom in South Florida. Forbes reports a few things going on behind the scenes that could boost cash flow.

The Panthers recently signed a ten year deal with BB&T; for the naming rights to their arena. The deal is expected to bring in somewhere to the tune of $37 million over the next ten years. The Panthers front office also struck a new deal with Fox Sports Florida that will bring in extra income from the team’s television rights.

The other good news is the Cats seem to be on the rebound. This year’s list saw a 5% increase in the estimated value of the team over last year. I’m sure the fact that the Cats made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade had something to do with that.

Small Market Teams

The recent NHL lockout is just as harmful to many of the owners as it is to the fans. I think Gary Bettman has a genuine concern for the struggling teams in the NHL but the extended lockout will hurt more than help.

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According to ESPN the Panthers’ average home attendance last season also ranked at toward the bottom of the league. Again, this sounds bad on the surface but when you look a little closer the attendance was actually up, on average, by about 2000 fans per game compared to the year before and was the highest average home attendance in over a decade.

It seems to me the Panthers, while operating in the red, show all the signs of a growing business, a business that has been put on hold due to the NHL lockout.

Post Lockout Panthers

It’s difficult to say how long the NHL lockout will last and how its wake will affect the Panthers. Fans in South Florida are earned not made and there’s no telling how many will return when the players get back on the ice.

At the end of this season big name players such as Stephen Weiss and Jose Theodore will be unrestricted free-agents and there is no guarantee that they will stay in South Florida.

People in markets like Toronto and Montreal will most likely return in force just as if nothing had ever happened but people in South Florida are a bit stingier. It’s bad enough that the Panthers have to compete with the Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat for fans, now it seems they are in a competition with their own league and players association to make their business succeed.

More from this contributor:

Jonathan Huberdeau is Stuck in the Middle of the NHL Lockout: A Fan’s Take

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The Florida Panthers Cancel Regular Season Games: A Fan’s Take

Dmitry Kulikov of the Florida Panthers Signs in Russia: A Fan’s Take


All contract information form Cap Geek

Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein