The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in the Miami metropolitan area. They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and initially played their home games at Miami Arena before moving to the FLA Live Arena in 1998. Located in Sunrise, Florida, the Panthers are the southernmost team in the NHL. The team's local broadcasting rights have been held by Bally Sports Florida (formerly SportsChannel and Fox Sports Florida) since 1996. The Panthers are primarily affiliated with two minor league teams: the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.
The Panthers began playing in the 1993–94 NHL season, where they set the record for the most points by an expansion team in its inaugural season until surpassed by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017–18. The team made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, eventually losing the Finals to the Colorado Avalanche. Since then, the Panthers have only qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs seven times, not winning a playoff series again until 2022, and have struggled to find sustained success.
Blockbuster Video magnate Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise for Miami on December 10, 1992, the same day The Walt Disney Company earned the rights to start a team in Anaheim that would become the Mighty Ducks. At the time, Huizenga owned both the newly founded Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball and a share of the National Football League (NFL)'s Miami Dolphins. The entry fee was $50 million. Huizenga announced the team would play at the Miami Arena, sharing the building with the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat, until a new arena was built. Offices for the team were only established in June 1993, while vice president of business operations Dean Jordan conceded that "none of the business people, myself included, knew anything about hockey." The new franchise would be the first professional ice hockey team in Miami since the folding of the Tropical Hockey League in 1939.
Wayne Huizenga was awarded a franchise from the NHL on December 10, 1992.
On April 20, 1993, a press conference in Ft. Lauderdale announced that the team would be named Florida Panthers, with former New York Islanders general manager Bill Torrey as president and Bobby Clarke as general manager. The team is named for the Florida panther, an endangered species of large cat endemic to the nearby Everglades region. Once the logos and uniforms were unveiled on June 15, the team also announced its financial commitment to the panther preservation cause. Huizenga had held the Panthers trademark since 1991, when he purchased it from a group of Tampa investors who sought to create an MLB team in the Tampa Bay area.
The new franchise joined the NHL for participation in the 1993–94 season, along with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The Panthers' and Ducks' rosters were filled in both the expansion draft and the 1993 NHL Entry Draft in June 1993, hosted by Quebec City; that draft produced ten players who would eventually be a part of the 1996 Eastern Conference-winning team.
The Panthers' first major stars were former New York Rangers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, rookie Rob Niedermayer and forward Scott Mellanby, who scored 30 goals in Florida's inaugural season. Their first game was a 4–4 tie on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks, while their first win was a 2–0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Thunderdome before a then-NHL record crowd of 27,227. The Panthers had one of the most successful first seasons of any expansion team in league history, finishing just two points below .500 and narrowly missing out on the final 1994 playoff spot in the East. Their first-year success was attributed mainly to the trap defense that first-year coach Roger Neilson implemented. This conservative style was widely criticized by NHL teams; some even suggested that the Panthers were ruining the game. While the team executives expected the audience to consist of mostly "snowbird" Canadians living in Florida, the Floridians soon embraced the Panthers. Helped by Miami's other teams having middling performances, the club averaged 94% capacity at the 14,500-seat Miami Arena, and sold 8,500 season tickets in 100 days
Panthers management hired Dale Tallon as the team's new general manager on May 17, 2010. Tallon rebuilt the team with 2010 draft picks Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden, as well as the acquisition of players, including Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, Marty Reasoner, Ryan Carter and Sergei Samsonov. All of the above-mentioned players, however, were traded at the 2011 trade deadline or released during the 2011 off-season, save for Gudbranson, Bjugstad and Howden. At the end of the 2010–11 season, just Stephen Weiss and David Booth remained from the pre-lockout era Panthers roster.
Panthers management hired Bill Zito to succeed Tallon as the team's general manager on September 2, 2020. During the shortened 2020–21 NHL season, the Panthers compiled 79 points in 56 games played, finishing the season in second place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes. As such, they were pitted against division and statewide rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first round of the playoffs. They were defeated in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, for yet another 1st round exit.
In the 2021–22 season, Quenneville led the Panthers to a 7–0–0 record through the team's first seven games, but he would resign from his coaching duties as a result of the fallout from the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault scandal on October 28, 2021. The next day, the Panthers named former NHL player Andrew Brunette their interim head coach. On April 3, 2022, the Panthers became the first team during the 2021–22 season to clinch a postseason berth, when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres at home, 5–3. This victory was also Florida's 48th of the season, breaking their previous record set during 2015–16 NHL season. Three weeks later, on April 21, 2022, following a 5–2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Panthers crowned themselves as Atlantic Division champions for the first time since the 2015–16 season. The victory was also Florida's 12th consecutive, dating all the way back to a 7–4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on March 29. This win streak matched another one achieved during the 2015–16 season, tying the franchise record. With the win, the Panthers improved to a stellar 56–15–6 record, tallying 118 points, and overcoming the Colorado Avalanche in the quest for the Presidents' Trophy. After an Avalanche defeat, and a Panthers 4–0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on April 28, the Panthers clinched the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history. They would end the regular season with 122 points, with a 58–18–6 record, the best record registered in the league since division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018–19. On May 13, the Panthers advanced past the first round for the first time in 26 years, dating all the way back to the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, by beating the Washington Capitals in six games, eliminating them with a 4–3 overtime victory. However, their luck would run out in the Second Round, as the Panthers were swept in four games by the archrival the Tampa Bay Lightning.