An Open Letter to the Panthers from a fan of over 50 years

Here’s an “open letter” from a fan of the Amerks for over 50 years has written to the Florida Panthers.  It was originally written on the Rochester Sports Fan forums.  His name is Ted, he also posts as insagt1 on that forum.  We felt this needed to be reposted for even more people to see.  We all thought we should just wait a few games and be patient, but it appears as if we’re at or near rock bottom (more on that from us later).

Read on, pass it along, please share your comments!!

From Ted, Amerks fan of over 50 years:

The 2008-09 AHL season moves into its second month. The hockey team you have provided us is quickly becoming the demise of our very storied and treasured Rochester Americans franchise. This is not being overly dramatic, or negative, or unrealistic.
The fact is, despite all the animus that has surrounded the team over the past few years, you are replacing a very popular, well established institution here in Rochester–the Buffalo Sabres…an NHL team that many local hockey fans have adopted as their own–being as they are only about an hours drive away.
You witnessed our struggles the past few seasons. You vowed last spring, that if given an opportunity you would return some dignity and competitiveness to the good fans of Rochester–something you said we deserved. You had to know you were going to be facing a great challenge and a lot of skepticism and disappointment when local hockey fans woke up the first weekend in October to see the Sabres prospects they have followed closely for 3 decades now wearing the colors of the Portland Pirates.

Rather than cave in to, what many back then felt were strongarm demands of the Sabres management, with the spectre perhaps of another season of a threadbare roster and a non-competitive team, the Amerks went in another direction and engineered a change in majority ownership to Canadian entrepreneur Curt Styres. Mr Styres certainly had the financial wherewithall to clean up old debts, and the desire to accept nothing less than a winner for Rochester. Still, he had to answer to you at the end of the day, when it came to player personnel.

At issue for our struggling hockey team was the lack of veteran leadership, missing for the past couple of seasons, and quite evident by the results in the standings. You promised to correct that situation by obtaining for us, the necessary blend of veteran and prospect, to make us competitive and entertaining again.

Mr Martin, Mr Birch—you have failed. You are no longer part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

No, you ARE the problem.

You have witnessed empty arenas and angry fans. The team you have assembled is hopelessly outclassed. This is not a criticism of the young kids or the coach personally. They are all working hard, but when stacked up to the rest of the AHL, these kids can’t compete at all. You have not allowed them to compete. You did not sign the veterans. You did not give us an AHL quality goaltender. You signed an enforcer for us and then foolishly allowed him to slip away because you couldn’t even deal with the simple realities of the waiver process.

In short, you are killing this franchise, Florida Panthers. There isn’t a team in this league as inept as we are. (Norfolk comes close just in case you think we don’t check the standings every once in awhile) You have to go back a long time (if ever) to witness back to back home games that barely attracted 1,000 warm bodies.
You have given our new coach an impossible task. Our new owner, who tried very hard early on to generate some excitement and hope is being cut off at the knees. The inevitable and bitter comparisons between the Sabres/Pirates fast start and our abysmal 1-9-0 record has taken flight. The fans do not care about this team anymore.

And make no mistake, its ugly around here. Florida, you have no friends in Rochester, and its completely your fault. We trusted you–we took you, cautiously, at your word last spring. This is our reward.

What do you plan on doing? Our coach continues to say we will improve. What do you expect him to say? Florida, that just isn’t going to happen…without some help. The rest of the league also improves. How do you expect us to win with horrible goaltending (assuming you force us to play Beckford-Tseu); invisible special teams; absolutely no one who can score goals; an inexperienced defense; and no significant veteran leadership to show the way. It was nice to sign our local boy Rory, but he is not going to make an impact on the ice. He is an aging stay at home defenseman who has on most nights looked every bit his age. You signed Janis Sprukts as our ‘big veteran scorer’. Many of us knew that was a huge mistake. He hasn’t played in this league in over a year and he is not a goal scorer. He may not even stick around, which has been the tendancy of many Europeans, who simply bolt for home when they are unhappy. I won’t even dignify your choice of ‘veteran’ goaltender with anything more than ‘what were you thinking’?

Florida–you aren’t losing credibility with the good folks of Rochester. You have already lost it…on merit. SO–please do something. Anything. Now, not in another month when we are 2-20 and nobody is buying tickets. Or allow us to respectfully rip up the 3 year agreement, now and flee from this incompetence and abuse to our franchise. Personally, I would rather suspend the team for the rest of the season, and look to rebuild correctly, than have to watch this unwatchable, sorry, team get hammered every night by our competition, who has also frankly suggested we are in way over our heads.

Our new coach deserves better. Our new owner deserves better. The fans here in Rochester deserve better. The puck, as they say, is in your rink. But rest assured, we are tired of the words and the empty, unrealistic promises, with nothing to back them up.

Yes, we are not happy with you. We are angry. We feel betrayed. You gave us the royal shaft. You have seen the games. Aren’t you the slightest bit ashamed of what you are asking people to pay money to watch?

So we wait and wonder…what’s next? More of the same? Do you care? Or do you have a conscience? Your legacy may well be to have written the sorriest and final chapter in long and successful history of the Rochester Americans.

Are you proud?

Respectfully but sadly submitted:
a fan for over 50 years