A lack of playoffs appearances hasn't been the only thing charmingly second-rate about the Panthers in the last decade.
Their long-time practice facility has been nothing more than a great neighborhood rink, unfit for a professional hockey team. Cats brass are so sure that fixing one problem will help with the other, they've sunk an estimated $10 million into a top-notch expansion of Incredible Ice in Coral Springs in a bid to attract free agents -- complete with a state-of-the-art, odorless Zamboni.
We were unaware Zambonis smelled of anything other than "ice," but admittedly our jobs don't involved driving one all day long (dream's still alive, though!).
"It cost a little more, but from an air quality issue, it pays off in the long run,'' said Incredible Ice GM Jeff Campol of the battery-run wonder-mobile. "We'll be one of the only places in the country with an electric Zamboni.
"We're trying something different around here."
Will the lure of new training digs work? Actually, it just might. When one of the selling points of the new facility is "paved parking spaces," it's easy to imagine what visiting players thought about the Panther's previous accommodations. BankAtlantic is one of the nicer game-day facilities in the league, but as Panthers coach Pete DeBoer pointed out, "The reality of the NHL is a team will spend most of its time at the training facility, probably more than they spend at their own home. Our old setup wasn't a plus."
In fact, it was so bad, acting general manager Randy Sexton told the Miami Herald, that they "used to just drive guys by the facility and say `hey, that's where we practice. It has two sheets of ice,' and move on. Now, we're going to take them [inside]."
The first-class facility, which will rival any in the NHL, nears completion next week when boards and glass are installed and a test ice sheet put down. The new, Panthers-only wing will include an additional regulation rink, cavernous workout room, hot and cold tubs, and locker room and office space for coaches and management. The public will still be able to watch practice, but will no longer share any space with the Panthers.
Or, we anticipate, be able get within 100 yards of the fancy odorless Zamboni.