The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in the Miami metropolitan area. Founded in 1993, they are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). With their home venue at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida; the Panthers are the southernmost team in the NHL.
For those unfamiliar with the area, Sunrise is a town just west of Ft. Lauderdale and just to the north of Miami.
Their colors are red, gold, blue and white and their emblem is a panther leaping forward. The team is named for the Florida panther, an endangered species of large cat endemic to the nearby Everglades region. Once the logos and uniforms were initially unveiled, the team also announced its financial commitment to the panther preservation cause. The Panthers are an extremely community-minded organisation and has established a Florida Panthers Foundation which is involved in the fight against paediatric cancer which involves both fund raising and players visiting children in hospital.
The Panthers main achievements have been one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, getting beaten by the Colorado Avalanche in four games. The team advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in 12 years in 2012, but were eliminated in seven games by the eventual Eastern Conference champions, the New Jersey Devils, in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
In their short history the Panthers have had some noticeable players. Scott Mellanby helped to bring success to the budding hockey market of South Florida. He scored the first goal in the club’s history and went on to score another 29 goals in that inaugural season and a total of 157 goals in his 552 games in eight seasons with the Panthers. He was also the club’s second captain, between the years 1997-2001.
Olli Jokinen from Finland was synonymous with the Panthers for several years during a difficult time when the club had no successes whatsoever on the ice. He scored a club record 188 goals, whilst assisting on another record 231 occasions.
Goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck was instrumental in helping the Panthers reach the Stanley Cup final. During the inaugural season he played some 60 games and had the second best save percentage in the league. The following season was equally impressive, as John earned himself runner-up honors for the coveted Hart and Vezina Trophies.
Paul Laus was a gritty defenseman and enforcer and a determined and hard-working player who became a workhorse in the Panthers' defense over the years. Playing for a record nine seasons in Florida, Laus spent his entire NHL career with the club.
Slovakian defender Robert Svehla played no less than 573 games—making him the player with most all-time appearances in a Panthers jersey. During the 1995-96 season he reached career highs in assists (49) and points (57), and was a driving force behind Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
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