Do you know these guys, Miami? Get to know them!
As I'm writing this and wondering when Bleacher Report allows me to add photos to my NBA article (will be linked when I'm allowed to add the pictures) I'm watching the final two minutes of a great win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After starting with a tough Western Canadian road trip where they lost in Edmonton and Vancouver before rebounding with a win over the Flames in Calgary, the Panthers came home and took care of business against a Lightning squad that feels like their Stanley Cup victory was six decades ago as opposed to six years ago.
The question on Panthers fans' minds is, will this be the year?
No, not the year when they bring home the Cup, the year they finally get back to the post season.
The last time the Panthers made it to the postseason was the 1999-2000 season, when they got swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
Since then, the Marlins won a World Series, the Dolphins actually made the post-season a couple of times, The U claimed a National Title and got cheated out of two others, and the Heat managed to win an NBA Championship and put themselves in a position to win "four, five, six, seven" more in the words of LeBron James.
But the Panthers? No playoff appearances, plus a season lost to a lockout. Because of this, hockey is about as popular in South Florida as Rex Ryan.
This is even my first Panthers post. Mind you, I've written too much about the Heat, at least three times a week about the Fins, and I don't like the Marlins so they don't count.
But I am a Panthers fan, have been since their inception. Still remember and reflect fondly on the year of the rat. Because of this I also curse the lack of success since then (last time the Panthers won a playoff series, it was against Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. Since then Super Mario purchased the team, drafted Sidney Crosby and won the cup).
This year though, the Panthers look very good. But do you know that? Can you name any of their players? I know the die-hard Panthers fans can, but what about you, the casual South Florida Sports fan?
This season, Heat tickets will be scarce, the way things are looking, the Dolphins will be out by December, and are you really going to start going to Marlins games now?
Do something different, check out a Panthers game this season. Make the drive up to Sunrise and watch these guys play. Sure we might not have Sid the kid or Ovie, but we do have a good, young, hard-working hockey team that will fight and claw their way through the NHL however they can with a great goaltender (sounds like 1996 doesn't it?).
Plus, you can't beat the ticket prices, I insist, check them out! You're going to have fun, and you might see a fight. So go out and watch the panthers this year, and if you can't make it to a game, check them out on TV, or listen to the always entertaining Randy Moeller call the action on the radio.
Then when the Cats get back to the postseason, we won't be caught off-guard. Because in the end, while the rest of the world was focused on the Heat, the Panthers could wind up being our best kept secret.
Thomas Galicia still remembers when The Beezer was the best goaltender in the NHL and admits to maybe throwing a couple of rats onto the ice. His Dolfan Diaries post will be up later on today following the Dolphins-Panthers game. Follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia. Check out his archive, which will have more Panthers and hockey talk, here.