As the NHL continued to expand, it was time to add more teams to existing markets. On December 10th 1992, two new franchises were awarded and 1993 saw the addition of two new teams.
Considering that the NHL had first expanded into Florida just one year prior, the league felt that Tampa Bay and Sunrise were far enough apart to offer each team their own fanbase. Maybe because the Retirement State is a pretty big place, or maybe it was just that Wayne Huizenga had $50 million going spare. Remember this was the 90s and Blockbuster was still relevant. Kids, go ask your parents.
In the 1993 expansion draft, the Panthers selected John Vanbiesbrouck first overall and build their offense around Scott Mellanby, who scored the team’s first goal. The Panthers also picked Rob Niedermayer in the entry draft. Niedermayer would to on to play 549 games for the team.
Bobby Clarke was the team’s first GM, and former New York Rangers head coach Roger Neilson took charge behind the bench. Neither of whom lasted long, as the the Panthers’ first two seasons were forgettable. Clarke left after the inaugural season and was replaced by Bryan Murray.
1995/96 was a remarkable season for the Panthers. After failing twice to make the playoffs, Florida finished the season third in the Atlantic, clinching their first trip to postseason hockey. The Boston Bruins fell first, followed by the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first-time finalists met another franchise making its first trip to the finals. Having just relocated from Quebec, the Colorado Avalanche were an unstoppable force for a brief time in the mid 1990s and Floridian hopes were dashed in just four games.
Playoff inexperience doomed the Panthers; 16 of the 21 players (who played) were making their first appearance in the finals. After conceding eight goals in the second game, the writing was on the wall. Game three was lost 3-2 and game four required three periods of overtime for Uwe Krupp to beat Vanbiesbrouck. Patrick Roy made 63 saves in game four, earning himself free drinks in Denver for the rest of his life.
Those were the glory days for the Panthers, in the 20 seasons that followed (so far), the team has only made the playoffs four more times, not once progressing past the first round. As the second millennium approached Pavel Bure was brought in to steady the ship, and the team was sold in 2001. The power of Bure and goaltending skills of Roberto Luongo couldn’t elevate the team and in 2006 lunacy prevailed and Luongo was traded.
After many more forgettable seasons, ownership changes and new jersey designs; the Panthers landed first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad in 2014 and head coach Gerard Gallant. Gallant turned the team’s fortunes around and gave the fans hope. After a rebuilding season, the Panthers made it to the playoffs again in 2016 but fell in six games to the New York Islanders. Gallant was fired 22 games into the 2016/17 season, GM Tom Rowe took over behind the bench before being fired at the end of another dismal season. Jonathan Marchessault, the Panthers’ leading goalscorer last season, was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was picked by the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Panthers may not be the ideal candidate if you’re looking for a bandwagon team, but the other team that joined the league in 1993 just might be…
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks
The hatching of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim is one of the most remarkable teams in hockey, if not all of sport. The 1990s was a decade of success and expansion for the Disney Corporation, riding the success of their Mighty Ducks movie, the company took the next logical step and founded a pro-sports team. After paying the $50 million entry fee (and you thought Disney’s California Adventure was expensive) the team was born. The Anaheim Arena would be the team’s home, although the name was quickly changed to Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. Bolstered by the team’s presence in the best hockey league in the world; Disney would go on to produce two more live-action movies, a really messed-up cartoon and a toy range. Ultimately the duck that laid the golden eggs upped and died, and the NHL’s ‘Dead Puck’ era put off all but the most vehement fans.
The Duck’s roster was stocked by 1993’s expansion and entry drafts. Goalie Guy Herbert was the first player selected by Anaheim and became the first and last original Duck, playing his last game for the team in the 2000/01 season. Toronto Maple Leafs winger and future Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco was also picked up. In the entry draft the Ducks picked future All-Star Paul Kariya as their first pick.
In proud expansion tradition, the Ducks weren’t very good at the start, and failed to make the playoffs in their first three seasons. 1997 brought the team their first playoff appearance and despite defeating the Phoenix Coyotes in seven games, head coach Ron Wilson‘s Ducks weren’t strong enough to hold off the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings swept the series and cost Wilson his job. Progress was slow and steady for team but the addition of Teemu Selanne in 1996 gave the Ducks, and Kariya especially, a new dimension. The pair hit it off almost immediately and became the cornerstone of the Ducks’ offense.
This relationship couldn’t bring any silverware though, and in March 2001 Selanne was traded to San Jose. Kariya himself would leave in 2003. A year later Disney put the team up for sale. The Mighty Ducks bubble had well and truly burst. At the start of 2005, the team was sold for $75,000,000 to Henry and Susan Samueli, who rebranded the team simply as the Anaheim Ducks. Brian Burke was now GM and Randy Carlyle stood behind the bench. Change was afoot. The following season new threads arrived and the team had a whole new look.
2007 brought the Anaheim Ducks’ first, and so far only, Stanley Cup. Having won the Pacific, the Ducks secured the second seed in the west, and knocked out the Minnesota Wild in five games to advance past the first round. The Detroit Red Wings fell in six games and Anaheim made their third Conference final in four seasons. The Buffalo Sabres crumbled in five games, as did the Ottawa Senators in the final. The Ducks lifted the Stanley Cup and captain Scott Niedermayer was named as the tournament’s MVP.
Success is hard to maintain in the NHL, and the following season the Dallas Stars dropped the Ducks in the first round and have been inconsistent in the playoffs ever since. Frustratingly for Ducks fans, the team has won their division for the last five seasons in a row but has been unable to reach another Stanley Cup final. Captain Ryan Getzlaf made his debut for Anaheim back in 2005 and is still going strong, Corey Perry is another big fan favourite on a roster that isn’t exactly loaded with big names. That said, with head coach Randy Carlyle behind the bench, the Ducks are one of the few teams that can genuinely be considered Stanley Cup contenders, at least in the west.