SUNRISE, Fla. - Attendance at Florida Panthers home games has been low before, but never like this. And now, the team's president and star goalie are speaking about what they're doing to turn it around.
Slap shots in the Panthers' practice session on Wednesday weren't quite as hard as the shots being fired by the national sports media.
The season started with the lowest attended home opener ever and then on Monday, a record low attendance for a Panther game ever -- only 7,311 fans. While the national sports media is shocked and surprised, the franchise is not.
"As much as it pains us to see the arena the way it was the other night, we know we are doing the right thing," said the team's CEO and President Rory Babich.
In past years, they have given big discounts and complimentary tickets to fill unsold seats, but not this season.
"It would be great for getting people in the arena," said Babich. "It would have saved us some of the things that have been reported in the press and obviously the photographs of the arena. We didn't think it was fair to our loyal fans, who paid money for their tickets."
An 0-and-3 record on the season doesn't help, but the Panthers have upped their spending on players, investing over $60 million in six free agents and a Number 1 draft pick.
"If we get some wins I am sure that people will start coming," said Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo.
In the past when they have made the playoffs, the team has filled the seats. They also acquired veteran fan favorite goalie Luongo at the end of last season.
"The only thing I am worried about is that little patch of blue ice in front of me," said Luongo. "That is the only thing I can worry about. Anything else just takes away from my game."
Of course, no wins and low attendance makes some wonder if the team may move to another location.
"We are here to build a long-term winner in South Florida," said Babich. "We have not spent any time discussing even a possible relocation."
As for the Panthers' hopes in restructuring a deal with Broward County, those talks are on the table, but any sort of deal is now on hold. The cats now go on a 10-day road trip and will be back at the BB&T Center at the end of the month.
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