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Florida Panthers Team History

Updated October 2018.

The Florida Panthers were established in 1993, along with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, as part of NHL expansion.

The team was named for the endangered Florida panther, a wild cat native to the area.  Owner Wayne Huizenga long favored the nickname, also used at his alma mater Pine Crest School, going so far as to purchase rights to the name back in 1991.

panthers logo oldThe Panthers came into the league with one of the best starts of any NHL expansion team, finishing just one point out of a playoff spot in each of their first two seasons.  They broke through in 1995-96, reaching the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

One of the more memorable moments of that Cinderella season came early in the year, when forward Scott Mellanby ‘one-timed’ a rat in the Panthers’ locker room before going on to score twice in that evening’s game.  The infamous moment, dubbed a ‘rat trick,’ led to fans throwing rubber rats on the ice in celebration of Panthers goals.

The Panthers struggled to match their performance from that breakout season.  After a strong start, they hung on to make the playoffs the following season, only to lose to the Rangers in the first round. After a two-year hiatus, the Panthers made the postseason in 2000 but were swept by the Devils in the first round.

panthers logo currentThe Panthers would go a full 10 seasons before they returned to the playoffs, despite contributions from All-Star players Pavel Bure and Roberto Luongo, both of whom spent time in Florida.

After a complete roster overhaul, the team claimed their first Southeast Division title in 2011-12 but fell in the opening round of the playoffs. Led by 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers claimed another division title in 2015-16, but were again bounced in the first round of the postseason. Thinking more change was needed in order to bring lasting success, the club moved toward an analytical approach, building a roster much like one may see in the movie Moneyball. However, despite newcomer Jonathan Marchessault scoring a team-leading 30 goals, the club dropped 22 points from its 103-point mark the season prior and missed the playoffs.

General manager Dale Tallon and new head coach Bob Boughner have built a roster with a healthy mix of veterans and young players, highlighted by former Calder Trophy winners Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad. The hope remains that the club will find its identity and become a Cup contender within a few seasons.

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 20: A view of the Florida Panthers visitors locker room before a NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on November 20, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

panthers locker room 2
Feature photo courtesy Jared Earle | Flickr

This post produced in collaboration with Josh Smith, managing editor of ScoutingTheRefs.com.

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Tags : aaron ekbladflorida panthersroberto luongoscott mellanby
Jeff Ponder

The author Jeff Ponder

Jeff brings a wealth of hockey retail experience to xHockeyProducts, as well as a vast knowledge of marketing and content development. Jeff is also a former hockey reporter for various media outlets in the St. Louis area and has attended numerous NHL Entry Drafts. He has played hockey since the age of 10.

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