I started out a Rangers fan. We've only had hockey here since 1994 and I'm... a little older than that.
Seriously, though towards the 90's I did shift and become a homer. I loved the '99 Panthers team. (I didn't bandwaggon on the '96 run, though.) It's great to see a guy like Ray Whitney do well for the Dogs and other former Panthers do well. I was turned off to the game before and (moreso) after the strike. In that time the Panthers turned into a de facto farm team, developing one player after another only to trade them away for someone who didn't bring returns. It was like they were giving players away! Funny enough I thought, at the time, that the Luongo trade was the final straw. I went back to being a Rangers fan since their owners seem to know how to put together a good team; or at least they consistently try anyway.
I love the current team too. I'm really proud of what the Panthers have done. I'm just extremely wary as to what the management is going to do in the off season. If they work on getting a few more players to plug some holes then maybe I'll give them another shot. If you see Weiss and Versteeg gone tomorrow and some bums come here in their place - well who wants to follow that?
We live in an age where hype is constantly trying to obscure a lack of substance. This is everywhere, of course, but its pretty prevalent here. (The TV commercials for Miami Dolphin season tickets are actually quite amusing.) I think a lot of real hockey fans that move down here from up north can see through the hype, which is why so many still retain loyalty to their old home team rather than the new one. Go to a Panthers Flyers game down here and half the stands will be orange and black. Not some; more than half!
Flyers, Devils, and Rangers fans demand a tradition of excellence. The Panthers need to build on their success this year, not point to it and say "good enough".