The GOOD – the BAD – the EMBARRASSING

Well, after writing, reading, editing, re-writing and repeat, I have come to the conclusion that there really is no politically correct way to “evaluate” the Florida Panthers business unit. It is something that I just need to lay out in a factual and clear manner and hope the ownership team, if they read this, take heed as this is intended as constructive criticism and not Panther bashing. Disclaimer: I will not be mentioning any names directly in the critique since this will be read by the general public.

IDEA AND CONCEPT – THE GOOD

In the summer of 2015, I was contacted by my associate from the Panthers and he asked what can we do together to help foster an awareness of the Florida Panthers (put butts in the seats) within the community and specifically the youth hockey community. Our plan was for several Florida Panthers Hat Trick Clinics Presented by G&G Elite Sports and to utilize the ice during “dark days.” We had planned to invite other teams from around the USA and Canada to come and scrimmage at the BB&T and put on showcases and tournaments for the local youth hockey community.

EXECUTION – THE BAD

In the beginning of our endeavor, the communication channels were poor at best. Our clinics got bumped for corporate events after we had scheduled and marketed said events throughout the hockey community. This is where the Panthers put profits for a one time corporate event in front of establishing a connection with the community which would be long lasting and profitable for years to come. Now, let’s keep in mind, nothing was for free coming from the Panthers end. G&G Elite was responsible for selling tickets to each event we had planned, which we did, plus helping to organize other events on behalf of the Panthers. In return, the Panthers failed to acknowledge both the help and the referrals made by G&G Elite to help sale tickets and assistance with the booking of organizations to fill slots for intermission skates, anthem skates, etc. All the resources that G&G Elite put forth to market the Panthers within the hockey community via interviews with ESPN Deportes, social media post, website posting and press release that was distributed nationwide, not even a thank you or go beat sand(?) was extended by the Florida Panthers to G&G Elite Sports.

Let me digress for a moment. I told my Panther contact of the horrible reputation the Panthers had from years past and he agreed that he has been given the same type of feedback from the youth hockey community directly. I also relayed this story to him and the season ticket person who kept trying to get me to renew my season seat package. I purchased two seats in Club Red in the inaugural year of said Club. It came with a long list of perks afforded to each Club Red seat holder. Low and behold, I received absolutely NOTHING that was promised to me. Over the course of the season I complained and asked “what’s the deal?” I received the same message over and over, “we are working on it and will get it taken care of.” Granted, this was in the past and I asked the ticket rep, what are you going to do for me to convince me to buy season tickets once again? She said, nothing I can do. Ok, so it is obvious that making good on a promise and customer service is not that important to the Panthers. A simple solution would be, “hey you know what, we are having a tour of the locker room coming up, why don’t you bring you son down, have a look and meet a couple of the players?” Wow, so simple. I know they will not make good on what was promised in the past with a new ownership group (I would have personally) but how hard it is to do something so simple to appease and get a one-time luxury season ticket holder back into the fold? Do you realize having to look your son in the eyes and tell him, “no buddy, you don’t get to see xyz player or get his autograph because your favorite team is not going to do as they promised” is one of the worse feelings in the world?

Fast forward and back to the “now.” The actions by the Panthers only reinforced the notion already held by the business community and youth hockey community that the Panthers just don’t care. If we are not helping to sell tickets and bring money into the organization, drop dead was the message I felt was being sent. To his credit, my Panther representative was a stalwart for the brand and was determined to do his best to help change this perception. He was so adamant that things can be turned around, that I bought on to his message and hence decided to do everything in my power to help and be a positive influence in cultivating this new found relationship between the Florida Panthers and G&G Elite Sports.

DID THIS REALLY JUST HAPPEN? – THE EMBARRASSING

As I am putting words to “paper” I am just getting all worked up all over again. I am simply going to bullet point SOME of the issues that fall into the world of embarrassment/laziness for the Panthers (in no particular order as they just keep popping into my head as I type)
– On the scoreboard when groups are recognized, G&G Elite was the only organization that’s name that was not spelled correctly or listed properly. Instead of G&G Elite it was displayed as G AND g ELITE.
– No marketing help in anyway, shape or form from the Panthers regarding the Rink of Dreams, Hat Trick Clinics
– Phone calls and emails were NEVER returned after multiple attempts to various people within the organization. My representative was the only one to keep the channels of communication open
– The Director, Community Relations & Grassroots Marketing – could not remember what he promised youth hockey organizations. I had to send him the press release with his interview in it. Then he ignored me and never responded to my request
– Was denied a press pass request from the PR department. For one of our Rink of Dreams Hat Trick Clinics, I had to secure tickets personally and get the press to cover it on my own dime. The local media has no excitement in dealing with the Panthers which we were told by various local reporters. Isn’t the job of the PR Department PUBLIC RELATIONS? Media wants to cover an event but PR says no? Hmmmmm

I have outlined the basics above (and not the more dirty laundry type stuff) for the simple reason, if you can’t get these basic of the most basic things right, how do you plan on being successful in the future? Without the community, no tickets, no tickets, no team, no team no jobs. Real Simple. I have run a few companies and departments in my time and the amount of incompetence at various levels on the corporate side is staggering. The corporate unit, in my mind, did the minimum to secure their paychecks from the Florida Panthers. Each department head should be ashamed of the way their units operate. If they didn’t know these things are going on, shame on them for not being involved with what their people are doing. A good old fashioned shake up in the corporate structure, just like what is happening on the hockey side, will get people’s attention and get them focused on growing a brand, developing the close community ties that so many other NHL organizations have and being proud to be a member of the Florida Panthers where you can make a difference on a daily basis.

SUMMARY – MY TWO CENTS

A real effort and focus needs to be put in place directed at the community and youth hockey on the whole. Your future fan base and season ticket holders are waiting to be addressed and they are right in front of your faces. I don’t know what the culture inside the office are, I can only comment on what I have experienced, been involved in and what I see. From this perspective it is not good. A lot of hard work is needed to repair the damage of the past but it is doable. People need to stop taking advantage of the nice cushy jobs for granted and get out into the community. Randomly go to youth hockey games unannounced, make your presence known, shake hands, pass out business cards and make an effort to connect with people. Recognize and award people who are helping to boaster the Panthers brand, follow through on communicating with people who take the time to call and email you. Give 110% instead of 75% and good things will happen I promise.

I would like to thank ESPN Deportes for interviewing me on two separate occasions to promote the Panthers Hat Trick Clinic Presented by G&G Elite Sports, Tara Inabnit of the NHLNFA.COM, for the great interviews and coverage of our clinics and my guy at the Florida Panthers. Brother, your determination, passion for the game of hockey and overall excitement has been a pleasure to work with. Let us hope that the coming season, the problems listed above will be corrected by management and we can actually put our original game plan to work. As I have said in the beginning, this is not a gotcha piece to say the Panthers are the worst organization in the NHL but rather comments from a year’s worth of working experience to help “right the ship” for the future. I am kind of stuck in this sense as my 9 year old goalie is a HUGE fan of Roberto Luongo (Italian goalies have to stick together), Jonathan Huberdeau (my son’s favorite skater) and of course Jaromir Jagr. In my son’s word’s…”dad I like him because, he is Jagr!” Spoken like a true Panthers Fan! Any Panther executive (not a manager or lower tied employee) is more than welcome to contact me to discuss in more detail. Again, no offense to a manager or other employees but if what I have said is to be taken seriously, the communication must be from someone of authority. My email is dominic@gngelite.com and we can set up a time to talk this way.

Let’s focus on the positive, keep things moving forward and get the community involved in not only being great Panther fans but also contributors and supporters of our youth hockey community!!

– Coach Dominic

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