SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Vincent Viola's first event as owner of the Florida Panthers opened in a manner worthy of a West Point graduate like himself, with a color guard presenting a U.S. flag and an Army sergeant singing the national anthem.
Viola sang along and clapped at the end. His enthusiasm was evident, as he hopes it will be in his new role.
Viola was formally introduced as the Panthers' principal owner, chairman and governor on Friday, after spending $250 million for the team and the operating rights to the BB&T Center, where Florida plays its home games.
"We understand the privilege of the stewardship that ownership of a sports franchise really means," Viola said. "We don't really own anything. The players sweat, sacrifice their health in later years to do well on the ice, to provide the right feeling and connection to the fans. It's about the players and the fans and our service to those two respective groups that will determine our success. I really, truly believe that."
Viola also gets the Saveology.com Iceplex where the Panthers train, along with team's development partnership with Boyd Gaming, an effort to put a casino adjacent to that arena. His acquisition of the Panthers happened quickly, starting about a month ago when he asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have lunch.
"A very nice lunch," Bettman said.
Must have been, since Viola didn't wait around to complete the deal. He and his family — his sons are hockey-mad — plan to relocate to South Florida soon, and Viola said he's already assured general manager Dale Tallon that any resources the team needs to move closer to the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup will be available.
As part of the deal, Douglas Cifu takes over as the Panthers' vice chairman, partner and alternate governor. Team president Michael Yormark was promoted, now getting chief executive officer as part of his title.
"When you think back at the 20-year history of this team ... there has been one constant," Bettman said. "South Florida has always been an important, terrific hockey market for us and we've had passionate, loyal fans for the Florida Panthers. Well, today, we open a new chapter."
16 Week Curriculum With Instructions, Lesson Plans & CNG Conversion Kit