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Vinnie Viola, Florida Panthers Owner

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2023 6:54 pm

Vinnie Viola, Florida Panthers Owner

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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May 25, 2023 6:54 pm

Vinnie Viola joined Zach to discuss the Florida Panthers advancing to the Stanley Cup Final!

Zach Gelb Show
Zach Gelb

Let's go out to the guest line right now, welcoming the owner of the Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers, and that of course is Vinny Viola. Vinny, I would ask you how you're doing, but I think I know the answer to that, so I'll just say congratulations.

Thanks so much for doing this. Thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you to all of you for being here, and thank you to all of the other sports, because they've stuck with a franchise, quite frankly, that, you know, we haven't delivered, and they've delivered for us continually, and finally maybe we're getting ready to deliver back completely, you know? I don't know how much sleep you got last night, but when you woke up this morning, and you know you're going to the Stanley Cup Final, just what goes through your mind? Well, first of all, it's overwhelming. Second of all, for any sports fan, it's the feeling like when your best team wins a game that you didn't think they were going to win, right? Everyone expected us to be here, and it just lifts your spirits in a way that you really, you know, I've been calling, you know, I called Bill Zito, I called Matt Caldwell, Coach, and I basically asked him the same question, and my sons, who were very involved in the team, I said, Has it hit you yet? Has it hit you that we have the privilege to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup? That's pretty crazy stuff when you think about it. Has it hit you yet?

No. I'm still processing it. I mean, truly, I'm still processing it. It's a transcendent sort of event, right? It's existential. I had all of my grandchildren, except for basically the two infants, and my sons in the suite, and as soon as Matthew scored, I'm like, Okay, we're going down.

I don't care about the convention or what is appropriate. I want my grandchildren to see this, and I went down as the game ended, and I hoisted my oldest grandson, whose name is Vincent Grant. He's seven years old. I hoisted him on the boards. I wanted him to see what exhilaration and excellent, actually, I wanted him to experience it as firsthand, because the lesson to him is this is what happens when you selflessly commit to a team effort. That's what you watched yesterday. You really watched 20-some-odd guys completely destroy their ego, submit their ego, and quite frankly, their physical well-being to the purpose of the team, the unit, the mission.

So it hasn't hit me, but that's how I'm processing it. I understand what you just said about the team success and how selfless this team is, but how do you further explain Vinny Viola, the owner of the Easter Conference champion Florida Panthers, who are off to the Stanley Cup Final? This group had to wait all the way up until the end of the regular season to get into the playoffs.

You guys had the fewest points out of any team to make the postseason this year, and now you're four wins away from hosting the Cup. You're there each and every day. You're around this team. You know the leadership in this organization. Just how do you further explain the success?

I'm going to explain it to you right now. It's built on will. W-I-L-L. That's empowered by trust. So the organization at some point, because of the leadership of Billy Zito and Paul Maurice principally, Roberto Luongo is right central to that, Matt Caldwell, we all looked at each other, not we, not me as part of that group. We all looked at each other and said, okay, we surrender.

This is not about any individual. We're going to create a culture where there's a singular purpose, victory, a singular purpose, and whatever I have to do, whatever I have to surrender around my ego, around my desires, I'm going to do that. And I don't want the interview to continue much longer before I mentioned the fact that every organization, especially in hockey, I think, needs a dynamic, charismatic, fearless, courageous leader. And Matthew Kuchuk, is that for us? I mean, even Barkie said it last night. He's like, I met him and I felt like I knew him for 10 years and there was no competition between those two guys because Barkie is also a fearless, completely virtuous, sacrificial leader. So we have a lot of people on this team, a lot of players and staff that they're like, it's not about us.

Let's go next. You talk about the dominance and the leadership, Vinny Viola, Matthew Kuchuk, that was evident in this past series, the two game winners in the first two overtime games. We all remember the marathon of game one that went right down to the end of the fourth overtime. And last night it was so fitting, you guys bringing him in last summer that he puts you guys in the cup final with that goal with under five seconds to go on the man advantage. You look at what he's been able to accomplish this year and what he's meant to this team. You look back maybe at that trade. What do you remember the emotions in that July day when you made the trade? Because you let go of Huberto going back to Calgary as a part of your organization for over a decade. Well, first of all, Teresa and my wife and I view these players as family members.

Get a little bit, I'll say, emotional here, like nephews, like sons, and we know them and we know their families. So to be faced with decision to let Jonathan and Mackenzie go on a trade, that was gut-wrenching. It wasn't like it didn't take her and I a second, an hour. It was a good part of a day because Bill presented us the trade. It was a brilliant trade from all of the clinical sort of statistical hockey extractions. But it was very, very hard for us because Mackenzie, we had a super special relationship and Jonathan also from like the day we bought the team. I mean, we know these people, we know their families. So that day when Bill presented us the trade, we knew we had to do the trade and for reasons that are really statistical and not, you know, sort of not emotionally driven.

But it took us a while to imagine the place without Jonathan and Mackenzie being there. Having said that, once we said, Bill, do it, we knew we were getting a generational player. Matthew is a generational athlete. Matthew is going to be the agent, I'm going to predict this, no matter what happens going forward, he's going to be the change agent for how people view hockey worldwide.

Because he plays the game at a level, quite frankly, that is highly, highly intelligent, but I'm going to use a strong word here. He makes hockey cool. Like you don't get that puck right at the goal line and read the dynamics of the four people around you, all of them, all of them, hurricanes, and just take that puck back on your blade, take a step, look again, take a second step, go around and fire into an upper corner of what was an empty net by the time he made his move. Those moves are just not made. You know that, Zach, you're a hockey fan.

99 out of 100 guys, what would they have done? It's just incredible. It really is. And also Vinny Viola, he has personality too.

The first overtime winner skating right off the ice was just awesome. Listen, listen, he's a spunky guy. He's a spunky guy in the neighborhood that I grew up in, we would call him a spunky guy. He's got that little bit of swagger.

We called it spunk back in the old days before swagger was used. And at the same time, he's a gentle man. He's a family man. He's respectful of the sport, deeply respectful of the sport.

By the way, I have to say this. You look at, I mean, he got kind of what you and I would call horse collared by Brent Burns at the end of the second period, that cheap shot when he groined him. And he just took his lumps, skated off. That's the spirit that quite frankly makes the sport so great. That's not a criticism. That's not a criticism of Brent Burns. He's a Hall of Fame player. Like, you know, that was like a very important point in the game. It also helps too when you have a goaltender, the way that Bobrovsky is playing because he is a brick wall back there.

He's been sensational. Well, Bob's a Hall of Famer, but he's a Hall of Fame human being. He transcends sports. You have to be around him to really witness really the epitome of personal discipline and a context about how at the end of the day, and Bob invokes God all the time, that we're a reflection of God's grace.

We all are. And he keeps that front and center in the way he lives his life, the way he treats his daughter, his wife. He's a special guy. I had to see the guys after the game last night. I said, Bob, of everything that's gone on, I'm so happy that this season is happening for you right now. Vinny Viola, before we let you run, a few more with the owner of the Easter Conference champion Florida Panthers on the day after his team punches their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

When you have a tough moment, and maybe an embarrassing moment, you wonder how people respond. And the heart of a champion responds by running it back and advancing further. That's what your team has done in the last year. Because last year you guys had the most points in the league, president trophy winner, and then you go out in the second round getting swept. And this year, now doing it a completely different way, you're in the Stanley Cup Final. How much did last year really pave the way for the success that you guys are having right now? I don't think it actually had as big an impact, quite frankly, as the culture change.

Yeah. I mean, four or five guys from last year's team aren't here. We really started, I mean, Billy really built this, this is just a genius sort of iteration by Bill Zito. And that's not a comment on last year's staff or coaches.

Those guys are just superstars, starting with Andrew Burnett. But no, what people don't understand is that we basically made a choice to radically, radically change direction. And quite frankly, best organizations are open to radical honesty, you know, just like brutal honesty about where they are.

And that's where the tough decisions come in. If you were down 3-1 against Boston, what would you have told me, especially knowing that juggernaut that the Bruins had this year historically, most points, most wins, if I would have told you your team would come on back, win that series, and then advance two more rounds after that to get to the cup final, what would you have told me down 3-1 to Boston? I would have said, Zach, I want some of whatever you're drinking.

I want to know your diet. I want to know your habits because if you're getting that vibe, I want that vibe. I mean, I was hopeful. Was I confident? Let's just say I was probably realistic as a sports fan. But I will tell you this, when Carter Fahey closed the space below the goal line and took that puck even before the shot by Matthew, I watched just too many hockey games since 1963. You have these prescient moments as a fan.

Something good is going to happen here. Before we let you run, I know you started this conversation talking about the fans, so I want to end it with the fans. FAO Live Arena, what has that atmosphere been like so far?

I've been able to see it on TV. I'm trying to get down there for a Stanley Cup final game, but when you guys get in that home playoff atmosphere for a Stanley Cup final game, what can people expect if they haven't been paying attention to those Florida Panthers fans? It's a really cool vibe. I will tell you right now, it's the most multicultural, diverse fan base of any hockey team, period. I will tell you that flat out. You've got to come down and feel it and see it.

It's just got a cool vibe. The fans, it's very special because the franchise really has had a tough go of it. The fans, especially the devout hockey fans, appreciate the magnitude of what's happening, but the casual hockey fans, they've never been to a party as good as this. Think about Zach, how many overtime victories.

Matthew scores that goal with 4.3 and they added a few tenths of a second onto it. It's funny, somebody called me up, one of my buddies that I went to West Point where he said, do you understand that there's like 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 year old kids that their life will be formed and influenced by the experience of this postseason? I hadn't thought about that, but I was that kid, 1962, rooting for the Yankees against San Francisco in game 7. I was 6 years old.

My dad had it on the radio. How about that? And we'll see if you guys go get 4 more wins.

If you do, that party's just going to continue and it would be great to see. Vinny Viola, so happy for you. Really do appreciate you doing this today and once again, congratulations. God bless you, Zach. Let's go Panthers.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-25 20:08:21 / 2023-05-25 20:14:31 / 6

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