The Florida Panthers will be celebrating their 25th season as a NHL franchise entering the 2018-2019 season.
Last year, they raised a second banner in the BB&T Center honoring Wayne Huizenga, the man responsible for bringing hockey to Florida, just before his passing a couple weeks later.
The thing with the 2 banners is that the Panthers do not have one honoring players, only the 2 men who made the franchise possible.
Clearly I am not opposing to that because without Wayne Huizenga and Bill Torrey the franchise wouldn’t be what it is today.
It does raise the question, which player in Panthers history will be the first honored with a lifetime of legacy hanging above the ice?
When talking about legendary Panthers players only a handful come to mind. Not because the Panthers haven’t had many great names added to the roster but adding those names to the rafters might not reflect on the history of the franchise.
Specifically 4 players are top of the list to make the first player banner drop.
In 1993, the first player drafted instantly made an impact. In an effort to bring awareness to the franchise he went on a “mall tour” to promote the team along with making information hockey videos with the help of Huizenga’s company Blockbuster. VBK or Beezer, had tied the league record for the most saves by an expansion goaltender and posting the leagues 2nd best save percentage. His play also helped the Panther raise their first ever banner for most wins by a franchise in their inaugural season.
More franchise success came with Beezer’s goaltending including an All-Star Game appearance in 1995-1996.
The Panthers also made the playoffs for the time in franchise and helped leading the way to their first and only Stanley Cup Finals.
That following year, he led the Eastern Conference in All-Star game voting along with an appearance on EA Sports NHL 97 and the season after marked his 300th.
Beezer was also an inspiration off the ice in the community.
Spending much of his career in Florida this is a no brainer of a choice to put up in the rafter.
Luongo is not only a Panther legend but he is certainly a future NHL Hall of Famer.
Ever since coming back to Florida the teams potential has sky rocketed.
Off the ice, Luongo is a constant inspiration to the community and is always at local fundraisers involving the team. Many would argue saying Luongo is certainly the guy to get the spot first due to his long tenure and impact.
Now this one might be a surprise to many but I feel if we are going to hang a rafter at least one, if not the first needs to be of Mellanby. Though his 8 year tenure wasn’t the greatest performance, he still left a huge legacy behind and every night we are remembered by it. That’s right the legend of the “rat trick” makes his case. If you don’t know the backstory why Panthers fans throw a plastic rat after a win or after hat tricks, it is simple. According to the legend, before the 1995-1996 home opener a rat made its way into the locker room and Mellanby “one-timed” it into a wall killing it. Later that night Mellanby scored two goals in which Vanbiesbrouck dubbed it as a rat trick. Florida Panthers fans ended up throwing over 2,000 rats by seasons end as they made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals along with eventually make a second mascot that is rat named Viktor E. Rat. Sure this is a comical reason to want him to be the first but just like the guys above he served much time with the franchise and played his best years in Florida while leaving a huge impactful legacy within the franchise
If you had to choose who would be up there first, who would you decide?