Rampage In Sunrise? Florida Panthers Ask Season Seat Holders For Input On Theoretical AHL Affiliate Date In Late November

Joel Auerbach - Getty Images

Recent email from sales office to season ticket holders seeks input on local appearance by American League affiliate.

This gem - signed by five members of the Panthers' sales staff whose names for obvious reasons we won't reprint here - recently appeared in the LBC email inbox (reprinted verbatim):

Panthers Fans,

Hope you are doing well and had a great weekend. Due to the excitement surrounding the Florida Panthers’ No. 1 rated amateur and minor league prospects, we are considering beginning an annual tradition of hosting the Cats’ AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage for a regular season game at the BB&T Center [above, during more profitable days]. This game would be free to all season seat owners and would take place this year on Tuesday, Nov. 20 during Thanksgiving week.

It goes on a bit further, linking to a one-question SurveyMonkey poll, asking Panthers season ticket holders the following: "If the BB&T Center hosted a Rampage game on this Nov. 20 that was free to season seat owners, would you attend?". Respondents are given three options: "Yes", "Yes, but the date doesn't work for me", and "No".

No word as yet whether San Antonio fans were presented with a mirror-universe poll.

Logistics: the Rampage have an opening of four "dead" days in their current schedule between November 18 (at home vs. Charlotte) and November 23 (hosting Houston), so a target date of the 20th appears reasonable. That said (and I'm running on last-minute late-night energy drinks here)...

Which San Antonio home date - talking about dollars now - does the AHL team essentially forfeit? And it reaches far beyond the building and vendors of course: a "home date" becomes a travel expense, but to whom? Are the Panthers, or essentially Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, picking up the tab? Does such a courtesy extend to their broadcast team to keep the game on-air and live? And that's just the tip of it.

The Cats don't own this affiliate (or any other) so unless a quiet deal was struck between the two organizations months ago in anticipation of a long-term NHL lockout such a last-minute arrangement seems unlikely.

Seriously...how much leeway for relocation of a game exists in the AHL schedule? Further, what possible benefit could this provide for Spurs Sports and Entertainment (eerie, isn't it...the whole "SSE" thing)? And what damage - realisticallly short-term - might it do to their own loyal fanbase? "You purchased 40 games; we'll give you 39 and a replica sweater PLUS a Juraj Kolnik bobblehead (or some other such arrangement; completely hypothetical), so be sure to tune into The Ticket 760 live from Sunrise on November 20 as locked-out NHL fans watch your Rampage live - and free - from Sunrise! That's in South Florida, by the way."

Participating players from both clubs (whomever the eventual opponent might be) would love it, without question, as they should, and we'll maniacally cheer them on. Major league facility, bright lights, big swamp to the west (all that prime hunting/gathering, of course). The Panthers' prospects - and AHL vets - would eat it up, as they should. As for fans, the thought of Jacob Markstrom (yes, I know he's been here), Drew Shore, Colby Robak, John McFarland, Quinton Howden and a ridiculously fat list of quality talent we've spent in some cases several years watching from afar is certainly tempting on a scale not seen in these parts on a hockey basis since, well, never. Really, they're individually that good right now. Team dynamics will fall into place down the road, with increasing guidance from San Antonio bench boss Chuck Weber.

However...does this not read like a ruse of some strange sort? Whether official or not (and the email did originate from associates of the club) in my eyes it's difficult to grasp the particulars, of note: why the Rampage would surrender a home date, but more importantly why an NHL team - with a locked-out roster - would go the bizarre route of inviting its prime professional prospects (all victims of a cancelled rookie camp in September) to play a minor league regular season game on "home ice" in a building which hosts a hockey club which does not welcome its own contracted employees?

Doesn't smell right.

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