Open Mic: Wayne Huizenga's Impact on South Florida Sports

Patrick MurraySenior Analyst IJuly 13, 2008

Wayne Huizenga started his humble business with just one garbage truck. Today, that business is known as Waste Management, the largest waste disposal company in America.

He used his wealth from that business to start more businesses and in turn grew those into national powerhouses. His next two big business ventures were Blockbuster Video and a chain of car dealerships called AutoNation.

After the death of Miami Dolphins' owner Joe Robbie, Huizenga bought the Miami Dolphins and their stadium in the early 90s.

He was only getting started.

In 1993, Huizenga started a Major League Baseball expansion franchise, the Florida Marlins. He allowed team executives to spend money (unlike the current Marlins) and in 1997 the Marlins won the World Series. It was the shortest amount of time any expansion franchise took to win a World Series, until the Arizona Diamondbacks came along.

Also in 1993, Huizenga introduced South Florida to a sport it was unfamiliar with: hockey. The Florida Panthers quickly became popular and set the record for most points in an inaugural season for an expansion team.

South Florida went Cup Crazy in 1996, as the Panthers became the fastest expansion team to reach the Stanley Cup finals. The season is best known around the NHL for fans throwing rats on the ice following Panthers' goals. The tradition started when forward Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his hockey stick in the locker room prior to the first game of the season.

In 1998, Huizenga had a new arena built for the Panthers at the edge of the Everglades in Sunrise, Florida.

Huizenga has also been a tremendous philanthropist in the community. A Humane Society building bears the name of his wife in thanks to their contributions. He has also donated money to Pine Crest High School (his alma mater) and Nova Southeastern University. The business school at NSU is named after Huizenga.

Although Huizenga has sold both the Panthers and Marlins, and currently owns just 50 percent of the Dolphins, he has left a big impact on the South Florida sports scene.

He has brought two sports franchises into the area, as well as a World Series Championship, an NHL Eastern Conference Championship, a sparkling new arena, and plenty of memories for fans.