Florida Panthers to Open '09-'10 Season in Finland

Jesse MorrisContributor IFebruary 20, 2009

In a move that I'm sure almost no one following hockey in south Florida is surprised about, the NHL has made the announcement that this year's current "Cinderella story," the Florida Panthers, will open the 2009-10 season in Helsinki, Finland.

The announcement comes almost a week after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman came to Florida, toured the Bank Atlantic Center, and had extensive discussions with the press.

The Panthers are one of four teams set to open the season in Europe; they'll be overseas with the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues.

As this season has progressed for the Florida Panthers, just about nothing has been predictable. Their rise from worst team in the NHL to genuine Playoff contender has been watched intently by the fans in Florida. They've seen a welcome surge of fans to the Bank Atlantic Center for home games.

It remains to be seen, however, how the Cats will fair in the long run, as the final stretch is laid out with a veritable murderer's row of opponents.

But after nine years of playing in near obscurity, it seems the Panthers are making their move to at least become a media darling, if not a real dynasty.