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Florida Panthers sold to NY businessman


September 27. 2013 12:24AM
TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Vincent Viola grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from West Point, is a former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and after the Sept. 11 attacks founded a center devoted to combating terrorism.


He’s now the new owner of the Florida Panthers, said a person familiar with the situation.


Viola will be introduced in that role Friday after paying $250 million to buy the NHL franchise, the person said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not been made public. The Panthers scheduled a Friday news conference to discuss ownership, but confirmed no other details.


Completing the sale will have an immediate effect on the on-ice product, at least in one respect. The move cleared the way for the team to complete the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender who took last season off before deciding that he wanted to return. The Panthers announced Thursday evening that Thomas signed a one-year deal.


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.


“Tim is a proven winner who we are pleased to have signed,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “He is a fierce competitor who brings to our club a wealth of experience including a Stanley Cup Championship, two Vezina trophies and a Conn Smythe. He is a hardworking, driven and dedicated individual who will help our club achieve future success.”


Viola will replace Cliff Viner, a longtime Panthers fan who became a co-general partner of the team in 2009 and took over as general partner, chairman and CEO the following year.


“I know the parties are working very hard on a transaction and they’re going to try to consummate it as quickly as possible,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week.


Panthers sign Thomas


Tim Thomas is officially back in the NHL.


The Stanley Cup-winning goalie signed a one-year contract Thursday with the Florida Panthers, a move that was expected for several days. Financial terms were not released.


The 39-year-old Thomas took last season off, then decided he was ready to return to hockey.


Thomas has played in 378 NHL games, all with Boston. He’s stopped 92 percent of the shots he has faced, with a 2.48 goals-against average. He led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup.


Optimism for L.A. game


LOS ANGELES — The NHL is confident the ice won’t melt on its plan to play outdoor hockey in sunny Southern California.


The Los Angeles Kings will take on the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium, the iconic baseball venue nestled high in the hills above downtown.


It’s the NHL’s first outdoor game in a warm-weather city, but the league’s ice-making technicians say they’re up to the challenge of building a viable rink in Los Angeles’ balmy year-round temperatures.


About two weeks before the game, the NHL will begin building the rink on top of the infield. The ice will be covered during the day to keep it cool.


Restricted free agents sign


The last of the NHL’s notable restricted free agents agreed to terms Thursday in advance of the regular season opening next week.


New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan and Toronto Maple Leafes defenseman Cody Franson both re-signed with their current teams.


Stepan signed for two years for a total of of $6.15 million. Franson inked for one year.




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