The Florida Panthers got their start in 1993 as an expansion team and one of two new squads in the Sunshine State, joining the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers turned an excellent expansion draft class into a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1996, and they have made the playoffs three times overall in their short history.
The Panthers have had six Hall of Famers wear their colors, albeit at the tail end of their careers. Players such as Ed Belfour, Dino Cicarelli and Joe Nieuwendyk all played an important role in teaching a younger generation of Panthers players what it means to win in the NHL.
In 1996, the Panthers surprised the NHL by finishing in third place in the Eastern Conference thanks to the spectacular goalie John Vanbiesbrouck in the net and great play from their scoring threats Bill Lindsay, Dave Lowry and Mike Hough. After making quick work of the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Panthers were up against the upstart Colorado Avalanche. Even with an inspired performance by Vanbiesbrouck, the Panthers fell in a sweep to the Avalanche.
In recent years, the Panthers have retooled their roster and brought in some new coaching, and hopefully they can recapture the magic of their 1996 playoff run.
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First Trip to florida March 2010 was my first trip to Florida.My Family went to see hockey games .We saw the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning & the Maple Leafs.Two great games!!!!.I am a Canadian & the fans were GREAT.It was a fun,exciting time with the fans showing their knowledge & love of the game.So good were the fans & the games that we are planning to go again this March. August 30, 2011