Well that was quick.
Only a few short months after an aggressive new ownership group promised to significantly alter the landscape and direction of professional hockey in South Florida - and hot on the heels of GM Dale Tallon revealing a newfound ability to spend serious coin on players, whether in the coming months or most certainly over the summer - the Panthers will be hosting the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, according to reports from both the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel:
#FlaPanthers will host 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise; will officially be announced tomorrow morning.— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) January 13, 2014
Source close to Panthers tells Sun Sentinel that 2015 NHL Draft will be hosted by Panthers at the BB&T Center. #FlaPanthers— Harvey Fialkov (@hfialkov) January 13, 2014
Both later noted Florida hosted the 2001 Draft, in which the Cats selected C Stephen Weiss fourth overall. Richards expanded on the NHL's decision, which had its genesis in a somewhat complicated but ultimately favorable "deal":
The NHL promised the #FlaPanthers a draft (coming in 2015) and All-Star Game if Broward County paid for new scoreboard. Line for the ASG tho— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) January 13, 2014
We'll see what comes of the All-Star Game promise, but for the moment we can savor the reality of an exceptional event coming our way just 18 months from now. If you haven't been to a Draft - my one and only opportunity was Hartford in 1994 - it's a wondrous affair. The energy and excitement in the arena is something that must be experienced to be understood. And you never know who you'll bump into in the concourses.
So that's where we are for the moment; we're expecting an official press release from the club at some point Tuesday, which will of course be posted here. Until then enjoy the ride.