Florida Panthers

A look at the Panthers' 30-year history, from franchise beginnings to Stanley Cup

A look at some of the notable and memorable moments in the Panthers' history

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The Florida Panthers hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time ever on Monday, defeating the Edmonton Oilers in seven games to win the title.

It's a crowning achievement for the hockey team whose history dates back more than three decades.

Here's a look at some of the notable and memorable moments in the Panthers' history.


The 1990s

Dec. 10, 1992: Business magnate Wayne Huizenga, already the owner of the then-Florida Marlins and co-owner of the Miami Dolphins, is awarded an NHL franchise. It came the same day the Walt Disney Company was awarded a franchise, which would later become the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

April 20, 1993: The team's name is revealed to be the Florida Panthers, after the endangered species.

June 24, 1993: The NHL holds an expansion draft so the Panthers and Mighty Ducks can fill their rosters. Existing NHL teams were allowed to protect a number of players, but the Panthers were still able to grab some stars including goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, who was the team's first pick. Also chosen during the draft were Scott Mellanby, Dave Lowry and Bill Lindsay.

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1993: Florida Panthers' goalie John Vanbiesbrouck #34 eyes the puck and makes a save during a game. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

June 26, 1993: The Panthers participate in their first NHL entry draft, selecting Rob Niedermayer with the 5th pick.

Oct. 6, 1993: The Panthers play their first ever game against the Blackhawks in Chicago. Mellanby scores the team's first goal in franchise history in a 4-4 tie with the Hawks.

Oct. 9, 1993: The Panthers get the franchise's first ever victory as Vanbiesbrouck shuts out the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0.

Oct. 12, 1993: The Panthers play their first ever home game at the Miami Arena, losing 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

April 14, 1994: The Panthers end their season with a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders, finishing their inaugural season with a 33-34-17 record and 83 points, the most ever by an expansion team until the Vegas Golden Knights topped it. It was one point short of a playoff spot.

Oct. 8, 1995: After opening their season a day earlier with a 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Panthers host the Calgary Flames at Miami Arena for the home opener. Mellanby spots a rat in the locker room and smacked it with his stick, then scored two goals in a 4-3 win over the Flames. Vanbiesbrouck dubbed it a "rat trick" and some fans later began tossing rubber rats onto the ice after the Panthers scored, in what came to be known as "The Year of The Rat."

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Hockey: View of shrine that reads RIP RAT 1 10-8-95 with fake, rubber rat at the killing site in Florida Panthers locker room before game vs Buffalo Sabres at Miami Arena. Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his hockey stick and then went to score 2 goals that night. Miami, FL 11/11/1995 CREDIT: Al Tielemans (Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X49609 )

April 14, 1996: The Panthers complete the regular season with a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers, finishing in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and earning the team's first playoff berth.

April 17, 1996: The Panthers play in their first ever playoff game, hosting the Boston Bruins, who they defeated 6-3.

April 27, 1996: The Panthers defeat the Bruins 5 games to 1 to win the franchise's first ever playoff series.

June 1, 1996: The Panthers defeat the Penguins 3-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, earning their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, against the Colorado Avalanche.

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 1996: The Florida Panthers celebrate a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the Stanley Cup Finals in June 1996 in Miami, Florida (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images)

June 10, 1996: The Avalanche defeat the Panthers 1-0 in triple overtime, sweeping the Cats to win the Stanley Cup.

April 11, 1997: After the team's stunning run to the Cup Final the previous year, the Panthers finish the 1996-1997 regular season in 4th place, once again qualifying for the playoffs.

April 25, 1997: Led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier the Rangers defeat the Panthers 3-2 in Game 5 to eliminate the Cats from the playoffs.

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1997 Season: Wayne Gretzky pumps his fist after scoring one of his three goals against the panthers in game 4, and Player Wayne Gretzky. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

April 16, 1998: The Panthers play their final game at the Miami Arena, a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Oct. 9, 1998: The Panthers play their first regular season game at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, defeating the Lightning 4-1. After several name changes, the venue is now known as Amerant Bank Arena.

Jan. 17, 1999: Superstar Pavel Bure is traded to the Panthers from the Vancouver Canucks in a blockbuster deal.


The 2000s

April 9, 2000: Led by Bure, the Panthers finish the regular season with 98 points and reach the postseason for the first time in three seasons. Bure scores his 58th goal and 94th point, setting then-franchise records in both categories.

April 20, 2000: The Panthers are swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs.

June 24, 2000: The Panthers acquire goalie Roberto Luongo and forward Olli Jokinen in a trade with the Islanders. Luongo would become one of the Panthers' top goalies ever while Jokinen became a team captain and was the franchise's leader in goals, assists and points by the time he left the team in 2008.

April 3, 2001: Bure scores his 59th goal of the season in a 2-1 win over the Flyers, setting a new franchise record and earning him a second straight Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's season goal leader.

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16 Nov 2001: Right wing Pavel Bure #10 of the Florida Panthers skates along the blue line against the Buffalo Sabres during the NHL game at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. The Panthers defeated the Sabres 2-0.Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images/NHLI

June 23, 2001: The NHL entry draft is held at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, where the Panthers take Stephen Weiss with the No. 4 pick. Weiss would spend parts of 11 seasons with the Panthers and is still among the top ten franchise leaders in multiple offensive categories.

March 18, 2002: Bure is traded to the Rangers at the deadline. Despite only playing in 56 games for the Cats, he led the team with 49 points on the season.

Feb. 2, 2003: The NHL All-Star Game is played at the now-named Office Depot Center in Sunrise.

June 24, 2006: The Panthers trade Roberto Luongo to the Canucks in a deal that brought Todd Bertuzzi. A moth later, the Cats sign Ed Belfour to be the team's starting goalie.


The 2010s

Oct. 23, 2010: Former Panthers president Bill Torrey is honored with a banner raising and retirement of the number 93, the year the franchise began.

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SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 23: A banner is raised at Tribute Night for Bill Torrey as the Florida Panthers host the New York Islanders at the BankAtlantic Center on October 23, 2010 in Sunrise, Florida. Torrey was the Florida Panthers original president and was most responsible for putting together the first Panthers team. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

June 24, 2011: The Panthers select Jonathan Huberdeau with the 3rd pick in the NHL entry draft. Huberdeau remains among the franchise's leaders in many offensive statistics.

April 7, 2012: The Panthers end their regular season by winning the Southeast Division for the first time and punching their first ticket to the postseason in 12 years.

April 26, 2012: The Panthers lose in double overtime in Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs to the New Jersey Devils.

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SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 26: Head coach Kevin Dineen of the Florida Panthers talks to the players during a time out against the New Jersey Devils in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the BankAtlantic Center on April 26, 2012 in Sunrise, Florida. The Devils defeated the Panthers 3-2 in double overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

June 15, 2013: Huberdeau is awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year after finishing the strike-shortened 48-game season with 31 points.

June 30, 2013: With the second pick in the NHL entry draft, the Panthers select Aleksander Barkov of Finland.

Sept. 27, 2013: The Panthers are sold to businessman Vincent Viola for $250 million. At his first news conference as owner, Viola says his number one goal is to bring the Stanley Cup to South Florida.

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Panthers owner Vincent Viola on Sept. 27, 2013.

March 4, 2014: The Panthers trade with the Canucks to re-acquire Luongo, who would play the rest of his career with the Panthers.

June 27, 2014: Florida picks Aaron Ekblad at No. 1 in the NHL entry draft.

Feb. 26, 2015: The Panthers acquire Jaromir Jagr in a trade with the Devils. Jagr would record his 1,800th career point later in the season.

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June 24, 2015: Ekblad is named the winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.

April 9, 2016: The Panthers finish the regular season by winning the Atlantic Division. Jagr, at age 44, finishes the season with 66 points, leading the team.

April 24, 2016: The Islanders beat the Panthers 2-1 in Game 6 of the opening round of the playoffs, eliminating the Cats.

Jan. 19, 2018: The Panthers retire number 37 in honor of founder Wayne Huizenga. The number represents his birth year and lucky number. Huizenga passed away just two months later.

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SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 19: Florida Panthers honor Founder H. Wayne Huizenga in a pre-game ceremony prior to the start of the game against the Vegas Golden Knights at the BB&T Center on January 19, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

April 6, 2019: Roberto Luongo plays in his final game for the Panthers. He would announce his retirement over the summer. He finished his career with 489 wins, good for 4th on the NHL all-time list, and still holds multiple Panthers franchise records, including wins, with 230.

July 1, 2019: Following Luongo's retirement, the Panthers sign goalie Sergei Bobrovski to a 7-year deal.


The 2020s

March 7, 2020: A ceremony is held for Luongo, who has his No. 1 retired by the Panthers at the now BB&T Center.

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SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 7: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers number is retired and raised to the rafters at the BB&T Center on March 7, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Aug. 7, 2020: After the NHL season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panthers lose to the Islanders in a 24-team playoff format.

April 28, 2022: A week after clinching the Atlantic Division, the Panthers win the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season, for the first time in franchise history.

May 13, 2022: The Panthers defeat the Washington Capitals in overtime in Game 6, the first playoff series win for the Cats since 1996.

May 23, 2022: The Panthers are swept by the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.

June 22, 2022: Paul Maurice is named head coach of the Panthers.

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SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 23: General manager Bill Zito presents Paul Maurice with a team jersey after he was introduced as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on June 23, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

July 22, 2022: The Panthers acquire Matthew Tkachuk in a trade with the Flames that sends Jonathan Huberdeau to Calgary.

Feb. 24, 2023: The Panthers host the NHL All-Star game for the first time in franchise history.

April 30, 2023: After barely reaching the playoffs as a wild card, the Panthers beat the Bruins in Game 7 of their first round playoff series. It's one of the biggest upsets in NHL history, as Boston had set the NHL record for most wins and points in a season.

Matthew Tkachuk
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) and Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) are separated by the linesmen after a line brawl during the third period of game four in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

May 24, 2023: After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, the Panthers defeat the Carolina Hurricanes to clinch their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1996.

June 13, 2023: The Panthers fall to the Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, ending their run at hockey's ultimate prize.

April 16, 2024: The Panthers clinch their third Atlantic Division title and fourth all-time division title. Sam Reinhart scores his 57th goal, becoming the second Panther to reach 50 goals in a season.

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 19: Sam Reinhart #13 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Minnesota Wild at the Amerant Bank Arena on January 19, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

June 1, 2024: After defeating the Lightning and Bruins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Panthers defeat the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to reach the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons.

June 24, 2024: The Panthers hoist the Cup, beating the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to become NHL champions.

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