There was a lot for fans to like about what went down at the BB&T Center on Friday, though as understandable excitement for the future is steadily taking hold with the new season only days away, perhaps more important was the atmosphere in the room: we've been through ownership transfers before, but this one has a definite sense of "wow". As in, this might just be for real. Maybe. Possibly. Could be. We've been promised similar paths to glory by ownerships past, but simply going on "feel", it feels pretty good (I was a Whalers fan, after all).
As Vincent Viola (chairman, principal owner & governor) and Doug Cifu (vice chairman, partner & alternate governor) assume their roles at the pinnacle of the club's off-ice roster, a veritable wind of positive change indeed seemed to have infected those within the organization. All I spoke with were friendly but concealed to a degree, yet one couldn't help but notice a Cheshire cat grin not far behind the professional exterior. It was obvious. To see such emotion - even of the reserved type - is unique among the blue suit crowd, and refreshing. That clouds-have-cleared feeling permeated all in attendance.
No one has ever spoken ill of former managing partner Cliff Viner - a good, decent, and charitable fan of the team who answered the call when the Panthers needed help several years ago - and there won't ever be a need to. He evidently hit the end of his proverbial rope and needed out. Bless you, sir, for steering the ship through dark times, and planting the foundation which Viola & Cifu have received.
Mushy stuff behind us, a few quick thoughts...
- Had the opportunity to speak with both gentlemen and many members of their families. No need to drone on in gushing fashion but rest assured they are passionate, committed to winning (who isn't, but a fat bankroll sure helps in that area), and share a common refrain: resources will be available for Dale when he calls for them.
- Was assured that the Thomas signing is not a one-off, bandaid fix to fill a hole. As in: expect more high-profile activity. Note: that doesn't necessarily mean next week, kids.
- Gary Bettman, typically robotic in any setting, seemed genuine in his brief but optimistic comments about the South Florida marketplace. Say what you will about the guy, but he gets it done for the southern teams; just ask folks in Glendale. FWIW, he left the building quickly.
- Remember what I said a while back about Club Red looking like a B-list strip club? Having finally visited, I was completely wrong. Give it an A+. Pretty sweet barn after all was said and done.
- Was sorry not to hear from either Tallon or coach Dineen during the presentation, but it would have been a forced affair anyway, with canned comments. Better they stay in the background. Dino actually hustled out pronto upon conclusion to get practice underway.
- On the hockey end, young blueliners Erik Gudbranson and Colby Robak stayed on the ice long after their teammates had headed for the bowels of the BB&T, taking passes from one another. Nice.
- Tim Thomas still sporting the milk-white mask. Taking LBC writer Todd Little's brilliant advice I've reached out to the equipment staff by sending a couple of a dozen Litter Box Cats stickers to be emblazoned on every centimeter of Timmy's new mask. Remarkably, no response as yet.
Anyway, long week for everyone. Your turn...
Note: all videos courtesy of the club.