Back in July 2001, I became one of the owners of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers. A lot of very long seasons — seasons that I can assure you were filled with hard work, persistence in the face of long odds, and total commitment to excellence in the front office and on the ice — went by before I could write the sentence you are about to read:
We MADE the PLAYOFFS. And for the very first time we WON the SOUTHEAST DIVISION.
Yes… not only did we make the playoffs, we won the Southeast Division … thanks to a gutsy 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes that sealed the division title and put an exclamation point on a great regular season. Tonight, the Panthers, led by superstar Brian Campbell, face off against the New Jersey Devils in the first round of their postseason push for the Stanley Cup.
If you think the Devils have the edge in that matchup just because the Panthers franchise hasn’t participated in the playoffs for a while, think again: fifteen Panthers have postseason experience, eight have played in thirty or more playoff games, and five of them have won it all.
“We’re trying to make new history here in Florida,’’ Brian Campbell said recently, capturing the spirit of the whole season, the season of “We See Red.” My congratulations go out to him, to the entire Panthers team, and to everyone in the Panthers organization for a great achievement.
Winning the division, the first time in the 16-year history of the franchise, is a major turning point. Winning the division feels awesome. Winning the division is the attainment of a major goal. At Zimmerman, though, we never rest in the glory of attaining a goal. We set a bigger goal … and we start pushing for that. That’s how we play. Campbell and his teammates are those kinds of players, too … and the Panthers are that kind of team.
Something tells me this is the start of something very special in South Florida.
So come on…
Bring on the Devils!
LINKS: You Sleep When You Die: Hat Trick Plus One