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Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: September 7, 1:17 PM ET
No. 33: Florida Panthers

By Jeff Gold
ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 111
Title track: 84
Ownership: 73
Coaching: 33
Players: 52
Fan relations: 36
Affordability: 12
Stadium experience: 61
Bang for the buck: 62

The Florida Panthers are the winners of the prestigious "Moved Up The Most From Last Year" Award, improving 78 spots from a disastrous ranking of 111. Let's start with the obvious reason: They won. After missing the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, Florida won the Southeast Division and took the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils to double overtime in Game 7 in the first round. But the Panthers didn't improve only in the on-the-ice categories, such as players and title track. They moved up in every category. VP of communications Matt Sacco says the team made a few important changes that were key factors with fans. The team hired Pete Soto as its new game presentation director. "He supplemented the game experience with more focus on the hockey," Sacco says. "There weren't as many things that would take your attention off the ice." The team also added more arena staff, making the experience of getting into the building and seats more efficient. And finally, the Panthers went back to their original primary color of red after wearing blue since 2003. "That's the color our fans associate us wearing," Sacco says.