Sunrise, FL, United States (4E Sports) – New Florida Panthers owner Vincent “Vinnie” Viola feels they are poised to win and he would provide the necessary resources for general manager Dale Tallon to acquire players.
One example of that occurred with the signing Thursday of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who had joined the Panthers on a professional tryout.
“Our new owner made the effort to fly out and spend the day with Tim Thomas and decide if he was the kind of individual he would like to come in and be a part of our franchise,” said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen.
The Panthers have been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs only once since 2000 and finished with the fewest points in the NHL last season.
Viola was introduced Friday morning as the Panthers’ chairman, principal owner and governor at a press conference at BB&T Center. He was accompanied by his business partner, Douglas Cifu, as well as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
A New York businessman, Viola described himself as a big hockey fan, pointing out he started following the New York Rangers in 1963 and was a long-time season-ticket holder at Madison Square Garden.
His love of the game was passed on to his three adult sons, and Viola said the youngest, Travis, also played a part in his wanting to own an NHL team.
“I had this intuition about the Panthers and I was starting to watch the team at the end of last year and I had this intuition about hockey,” Viola said.
He also describes the franchise as a right fit since he plans to relocate with his family to South Florida.
Bettman also remarked that the sale should end once and for all any talk about the franchise relocating.
Viola’s purchase includes the team and Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, which operates BB&T Center.
He and his business partner, Douglas Cifu, now are the only partners, having bought out the other partners.
Viola graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1977, was a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a graduate of New York Law School. He also has been involved with philanthropic projects and is a past winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.