Reporting Tim Kephart
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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers welcomed new owner Vincent Viola to Sunrise Friday at the official press conference announcing the sale of the team.
“My family and I are honored to take the helm of the Florida Panthers organization with the No. 1 goal of putting a winning team on the ice year after year and bringing a Stanley Cup to our incredible fans here in South Florida,” Viola said. “I believe strongly in family, work-ethic, loyalty, relentless effort and a positive attitude and we hope to build an organization based on those principles.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the press conference that VIola is a “new chapter, new era of unprecedented commitment” who will have all the resources to win. Bettman also said that any questions on the franchise moving out of South Florida can now be put to rest.
Viola paid around $250 million for the Panthers franchise and all that goes with it. He replaces Cliff Viner, a long-time Panthers fan who took over the team in 2010.
Viola currently serves as the chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm. Viola is a West Point graduate and was a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He also served as a chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and built a center devoted to combating terrorism.
Viola said that he and his wife will both be moving to Florida soon.
“I thank Cliff Viner for his leadership and dedication in stewarding the Panthers franchise over the past five-plus years,” Viola said. “My family and I truly are excited about this incredible opportunity. We look forward to sharing incredible moments and exciting victories with the fans in South Florida for many years to come.”
The job in front of Viola will be one of the toughest in the National Hockey League. Viola wants to turn around a team that has been to the playoffs just one time since 2000 and finished dead last in the league last year.
The Panthers have the staffing in place to make a run if ownership gives them the green light to spend more money on the roster.
The completed sale did help clear the way for Florida to sign two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender who took last season off before deciding that he wanted to return.
Thomas has been with the Panthers on a tryout deal, and it was believed that the team was waiting for the ownership change to be completed before wrapping up his signing.