Florida Panthers Hope Latinos Will Fill Empty Seats After Hearing a Game on the Radio

Update: Justin Copertino, the director of communications for the Panthers, tells New Times "Hispanic Heritage Night" has more than just a radio broadcast: "We will have a mariachi band playing pre-game and at the first intermission and salsa dancing," he says. "We will be offering several featured food items including Cuban sandwiches, beef empanadas and arepas at concession stands. We also will be honoring former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz as our community hero."

The Florida Panthers' attendance woes have become a sad joke in the sports world, but that doesn't mean the team is just gonna give up without a fight. In fact, the team is hoping to woo Hispanic fans to the games by broadcasting three entire games on ESPN Deportes this season, beginning on Thursday, which is also "Hispanic Heritage Night" at the BB&T Center.

Broadcasting games in Spanish isn't anything new to the franchise. Back between 1993 and 1996, Arley Londoño did play-by-play in Spanish for the Panthers. And on Thursday, Londoño will be back in the broadcast booth along with Octavio Sequera, who will provide commentary. See also: No One Showed Up for the Florida Panthers Game Last Night

"These radio broadcasts will help to continue to grow and enhance our brand and the game with our Hispanic fan base in the tricounty area," says Panthers CEO and President Rory Babich.

That probably won't happen, but with the team struggling to fill half of its arena, it's worth a shot. And hey, the team even has Al Montoya, a Cuban-American goalie. The Big Cubano, as he is known, has been going on ESPN Deportes to talk about the Panthers and telling listeners to come to the games, something the team aims to make a weekly thing.

"Mi gente latina -- venga!" he says.

While it makes sense to reach out to a community that makes up such a large percentage of the population, the Panthers don't seem to be going all-out. If any Spanish speakers listening to the game on ESPN Deportes really wanted to get more, they would have to wait until January to hear another game. After that, the third and final Spanish-language game takes place in March.

But who listens to hockey on the radio? You can't even see the fights.

A more traditional way of reaching out to communities that aren't normally into the whitest game on Earth (a close, behind curling) is through hockey outreach clinics and free tickets. But the Panthers have scrapped giving away tickets this year.

The team did do a clinic -- but that was in the Bahamas, not Broward.

Follow Ray Downs on Twitter:

E-mail him at Ray.Downs@browardpalmbeach.com.

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