The Florida Panthers’ “The Perfect Plan” promotion, in which fans tell the team what they are willing to pay for season tickets, isn’t quite as radical as the band Radiohead asking its fans to name the price—even nothing—they’d like to pay for the 2007 album “In Rainbows.”
Still, the Panthers’ promotion, which is scheduled to end this week, is sure to draw attention to a franchise that has operated in anonymity for almost all of its 17-year history. The Panthers are one of nine NHL teams either placed in or relocated to a warm weather city over the last 20 years and were the first to experience success by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in just their third year of existence in 1995-96.
The Panthers aren’t going to give away their season ticket packages, which range from a 13-game “mini pack” to a full 43-game allotment. The team is adopting the Priceline model in which fans identify their price and wait to hear if it has been accepted by the team. According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, only half of the 100 offers had been accepted by the club as of Monday, August 9.
But while warm weather franchises such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks have gone on to win Stanley Cups, and the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators have become regular playoff participants, the Panthers made just one more trip to the postseason and are in the midst of the longest playoff drought (nine seasons) in the NHL.
Not surprisingly, the Panthers’ average home attendance has exceeded the NHL average only once in the franchise’s 16-year history. The Panthers ranked 25th in the 30-team NHL in attendance last season with an average of 15,146, the lowest figure for the team since 2000-01. After the season, the Panthers announced they would reduce the seating at the BankAtlantic Center by about 2,500 and begin a “dynamic pricing plan” in which individual game tickets would be priced based on anticipated demand.
The “Perfect Plan” campaign comes a few months after the Panthers—which had the third-fewest points in the NHL in enduring their first last-place finish last year—began the rebuilding process by hiring Dale Tallon as general manager. Tallon was the general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks through the 2008-09 season and is credited with constructing the team that won the Stanley Cup last season and ended the Blackhawks’ 49-year title drought. The Blackhawks also led the NHL in average attendance the last two seasons.
Panthers president Michael Yormark expressed optimism about the Panthers’ future in a statement announcing “The Perfect Plan,” declaring the promotion is “…a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans to get in now, before it’s too late.” While it remains to be seen if the Panthers will reach Blackhawks-like heights, there’s little doubt “The Perfect Plan” arrives at the perfect time for a franchise has nowhere to go but up, both in the stands and on the ice.