As fans filed through the doors of Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, they were greeted with blood red towels draped upon their seats. Splashed across the towels was the new rebranded team motto, “We See Red,” and as fans took their seats they waited. They waited for their Florida Panthers to take the ice for their first playoff appearance in over a decade, they waited for a head-to-head with New Jersey Devils, and they waited to roar in elation – a roar that was missing for so many years and desperate to return. The series would go seven grueling games and would end on an Adam Henrique goal in overtime. As the Panthers left the ice for the final time in 2011-12, their fans that had waited so long for any reason to cheer left them with a raucous ovation. Panthers fans had waited for rebirth, and now, with an NHL lockout, they wait again.
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If I told you in July that, at the quarter mark of the season, we would be looking at a division leading Florida Panthers squad, you would probably laugh me out of the room. But that’s exactly what we have.
And should we really be surprised? In 2005-06, Dale Tallon took over as the General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, a team toiling on the verge of obscurity. In 2009-10, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. He wasn’t on the ice, he wasn’t in the press box, he wasn’t even in the arena. No, the architect of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks — their first such victory since 1961 and the days of Mikita and Hull — was watching from his new post in South Florida. Dale Tallon was the new General Manager of the Florida Panthers.