Epic Fail of the Florida Panthers’ New Ownership

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When more than 30 dedicated and loyal Florida Panthers employees reported to work on Monday, I’m sure they didn’t expect they’d be editing their LinkedIn profiles just hours later to show their unemployment status.

But why, you ask? Great question.

George Richards of the Miami Herald reported that most of the cuts were made within the team’s sales department, and also included a Vice President, PR and other account execs.

The message to these heart broken employees was:  The team is losing money and needs to save some.   

So you lose experience to save money while laying  off the entire team that is responsible for acquiring new sales, which the organization desperately needs to make up for the money being lost.



SURPRISED? We shouldn’t be. 

We should have seen it coming from the very minute an Italian from New York took interest in a struggling Florida hockey franchise.

We should have seen it coming from the very day the Yormark dynasty put its final mark in Florida and moved forward to bigger and better.

We should have seen it coming from the very minute 90% of the long time established ushers and arena staff were taken from their long-held positions.

We should have seen it coming the minute they sent an extremely vague email to partners, sponsors and suite owners about staff “changes.”

As a Red Sox fan, I should have seen it coming when Mr. Viola explained his family’s wavering team loyalty as a Yankees fan because the Dodgers left in the 50s.

But most importantly, I should have picked up the phone and called my account rep when Mr. CEO Rory Babich sent an extremely vague email yesterday to partners, sponsors and season ticket holders stating,

“As part of any organizational review, there are typically some changes in staff as the business model continues to evolve. Some of the sales and service representatives with whom you may have worked in the past will be changing but the quality and level of service will continue to be a priority. If your account representative has changed, we will be assigning another member of our team to take over the service of your account and that person will be reaching out to you shortly.”

Been There. Done That.

Let’s forget the whole bad business practice of leaving a six-figure account in limbo without a representative. Let’s not even spend time on how that right there is Bad Business 101. That’s another blog in itself. What Mr. Babich fails to realize is that we’ve been here before as season ticket holders. We’ve seen the changes. We’ve seen the fails. We’ve seen the success. THIS, Mr. Babich and Mr. Viola, is and will be an epic fail.

How dare to insult the competence of your loyal supporters and fans with this unstable and inaccurate statement, considering this email was sent hours after you terminated almost every account representative. This is not a part of an organization review, this is the reality that we have been duped yet again by someone who just 9 months ago stated he would be running this as a “family business.”

Enough said on this caption.
Enough said on this caption.

Any fine minded human being would believe that to represent how you treat your employees and customers, but apparently Mr. Viola meant that this would be a family-run business, putting his 25 year-old son with no sports experience – not even in a front office position – in charge of hockey operations for a team that is in desperate need of solid players and experienced staff.

Just a weeks ago, Yahoo Sports writer, Greg Wyshynski, wrote an article titled, “Who is Travis Viola and why was he the FL Panthers’ NHL draft rep?” As if that isn’t the most valid question for all hockey fans right now… And then to have the audacity to compare your family to the Krafts of the New England Patriots … What world are you living in, Mr. Viola?

Poor Myra is probably rolling over in her grave right now and hopefully her spirit will pay you a few nightly visits for that horrific comparison.

Yet with these recent antics from the new owners, what upstanding coach or business professional would ever walk into the doors of the BB&T Center without having to look over their shoulder every day in fear of their job being taken over by a nephew or brother or ‘paisan’.

With such deceit and lack of communication with business partners, sponsors and season ticket holders, who is going to spend their hard earned money on a team that can’t even control their own staff nevermind their ticket sales.



The organization has stated that these cutbacks were made to “save money,” but we all know that’s a bunch of rubbish. Now you have to spend money to hire, train, and repair (if even possible) the relationships you have tainted thru these down right wrong business practices.

Mr. Babich stated, “As we continue to develop a long-term, sustainable business model, these changes will enable us to operate efficiently and effectively while continuing to focus on bringing the best in sports and entertainment to BB&T Center and providing best in class service for our sports and entertainment fans.”

I’m sorry, fans, but did you understand any of this overly wordy non-sense statement taken straight from a sports law book titled, “How To Avoid The Truth.”

How do I know this?

Because since the Viola family took over the team and venue, the overall quality of service, food, amenities and customer service has flopped faster than a bunny’s ears. Statements like this to the media are exactly that, for the media. There has been no sense of sympathy, camaraderie or care shown for the employees, staff, and partners.

How do I know this?

Because I am at every show. I am at every game. I am at every event. You can not tell me differently. I am there so often that people have thought for the past 4 years I’ve been a paid employee there. During the Yormark era, I would have proudly taken that as a compliment. Now, I would firmly resent the association.


A real Panthers fan I was... and will be for the team, not the owners.
A real Panthers fan I was… and will be for the team, not the owners.


A “staff change” is not what happened; “Budget cuts” is not what happened. A betrayal of long term trust, loyalty and partnerships is what happened.

A big “uppa yours,” as my Italian father would say, is what happened. (Don’t forget the typical hand gesture to go along)

Any true Italian family would recognize this and respect that, but that’s not what we have in the new ownership at the BB&T Center and the Florida Panthers. What you have is an ownership that is instilling its own peoples, its family members and other ‘paisons’ into positions that are completely ‘out of their league.’

My father always said, "There are those that are Italian, and those who want to be Italian. Then there are those who are but don't live up to the reputation."  per Giovanni Luigi DiPanni
My father always said, “There are those that are Italian, and those who want to be Italian. Then there are those who are but don’t live up to the reputation.” per Giovanni Luigi DiPanni

You mean you didn’t save enough money by removing several employees that pushed buttons in the elevators for the guests? They even took out the elevator operators in the VIP/Admin/Owners entrance – well when you live 1500 miles away from something you are running, I guess those little touches in said areas don’t mean much.

Or could it be Michael Lewis’ new book to be released soon that should have a negative impact on the Viola fortune? Funny how timing works so well in the favor or some but not all.

A new book by Michael Lewis, the author who brought the baseball world Moneyball and the football world The Blind Side, could have an effect on the fortunes of one of hockey’s newest owners.
A new book by Michael Lewis, the author who brought the baseball world Moneyball and the football world The Blind Side, could have an effect on the fortunes of one of hockey’s newest owners.


So basically you take away the people that pushed your buttons and now you’re pushing everyone else’s in so many ways. Apparently those people that were let go were obviously doing something right for you to want to invest your hard earned NY financial money on our team.What a slap in the face to the entire organization, its partners, fans and community.

Epic fail – GOOD LUCK  gaining back the trust of everyone you betrayed yesterday.

I write this blog post with passion because of the close relationship I have had with the BB&T Center and the Florida Panthers over the past 4 years and loyalty to the team as a season ticket holder and corporate sponsor.

I encourage you to share this post or write your own in support of those who made our team good enough for someone to buy and then destroy. And yes, this is OUR team, and always will be.



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12 thoughts on “Epic Fail of the Florida Panthers’ New Ownership”

  1. I am a founding season ticket holder and have supported this team for years, in spite of several gaffs of the past. I will hold my breath to see what this new team does with the draft and free agency coming up. If the teams is improved I stay. Although I agree about the negative feeling toward customer service, this is a Hockey team, and I, as a fan want to see the best teams on the ice.

  2. Now that the love letter to Mike Yormark is over, it’s my turn. Mike was an arrogant, self-absorbed bastard who who was pretty much hated by everyone who worked for him. I believe he was even there during two Employee purges. That said, a sales purge isn ‘t the worst thing that’s happened. During my decade with that organization, I saw a bloated and ineffective front office, the 2nd largest in bodies in the NHL. I saw a revolving door culture where people left for greener pastures the minute they could (before they could be fired, that is).

    Further, you decry the Hockey Ops decision of Travis (me too.!). But keep in mind there was once a guy named Al Cohen who put his son Brian in an position he too wasn ‘t qualified for. The point is, this act of nepotism isn ‘t novel.

    Viola may be horrible, in which case the team meanders on until the NHL finally puts it – and us – out of our misery and moves the team elsewhere. Somewhere that hockey matters, like Seattle, perhaps…

  3. Mi admiration to you for an example of courage in your blog. Well stated. I like the finger interpretation. lol
    Mi daughter, Jennifer Garcia, contributed with heart and determination, all she could give, to make the Panthers organization well represented in the market.
    The few times I visited the Panthers arena I could see the appreciation her coworkers had for Jennifer contribution
    and the dedication of everyone to excel in their job. Better times are ahead for every one. Respectfully, Alvaro Garcia

  4. Because when you want to reduce cost, terminating those who generate revenue makes the most sense.

    This is what rookie sports team owners and their stupid kids (Travis looks an awful lot like Eddie Munster) do when they realize they are in over their heads.

  5. I was one of those ushers. I heard the jobs were going internal now but I cannot get even an interview. Very disappointing. I know when I worked on Club leverl for years kids would run wild, now without elevator operators they run wild in the elevators and guests ride up and down because there is no one to give directions !

  6. Thank you all for your comments. I will not be responding personally to any of your opinions because that is your opinion and you are entitled to that. Your comments provide great conversation and a thought process which I highly encourage.

    However, it has come to my attention that some people believe I am not ‘approving’ your comments because you disagree. This is absolutely incorrect.

    Per the web hosting: “Some comments have not yet been checked for spam by Akismet. They have been temporarily held for moderation. Please check your Akismet configuration and contact your web host if problems persist.”

    Therefore, be patient, get involved but please respect each other and their thoughts. Remember, #JustBeNice & #supportyourteam


    1. Unfortunatly i saw this coming when they built club red and dipslaced hundreds of good and loyal fans for absolutly no reason at all… and mad a lot of enemies because of this. and then it just continued…….
      Hockey is a dead issue here in florida…. I love and miss the games… 19 years a season ticket holder and they needed people like me to continue and they could have cared less…… and you know what… i am over it…. I don’t even miss it any more… I was one of few who stuck to my guns and beliefs and saved thousands and thousands of dollars the last two years to see sub par hockey . thank god….
      and you also know what… it is going to get worse….. before to long…10.00 for water,, 12.00 soda and 15.,00 for a hot dog . and an even worse hockey team…… here we are mid june soon,, fraft soon and free agency draft soon,,,…where is our coach…. are you kidding me……
      save everyone the aggravation…. move the team….. leave us alone, and bring an owner and a team down here with passion….
      thats all we need….passion…..
      forget these guys…. the yormarks…. the violas.,…. get rid of them all…..
      panthers….it is time to move on… you have played your course and is over…… empty arena and all…….
      what a shame…..
      I will sorely miss you,,,, bit you have been ruined…..

  7. I just want to say I’m very new to weblog and truly savored you’re blog. Probably I’m want to bookmark your website . You really come with amazing articles and reviews. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your website.

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