Last week, the Panthers announced Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche would be Jewish Heritage Night complete with a pregame menorah lighting ceremony, kosher food at BankAtlantic Center and a Panthers yarmulke giveaway.
The news release sent out last Tuesday said the yarmulkes would be “given to all ticket-buyers.” What the release apparently didn’t make clear was that should have said “Panthers yarmulke given to those who buy a special ticket pack.”
That’s how the Panthers amended the news item on floridapanthers.com, but only after the news release had been sent to the media. The media did not receive a corrected release.
Fans found out the hard way when they arrived at the game expecting the sweet dark blue yarmulke with the Panthers logo.
“Two friends and I decided to check out the game because one of them loves to collect the crazy giveaways that hockey teams tend to promo,” Panthers fan Caity Kauffman said. Kauffman tweeted about her experience trying to get to the bottom of “yarmulke-gate” during last night’s game.
When Kauffman and her friends didn’t see arena employees handing out yarmulkes at the arena’s entrance, they asked around. They were told it was a group sales item and were unaware of the release that said “all ticket buyers.” Kauffman saw yarmulkes being given out a few seats away, but again was told they were for group sales.
With curiosity in full swing, Kauffman went to client services, where she gave her name and phone number, after being told the team would send out some yarmulkes. She ran into at least one other fan, who was irate, and they were far from the only ones.
“All in all, we just wanted to check out the yarmulke giveaway because it was a pretty unique promo,” Kauffman said. “We only pursued it because no one at the BAC [BankAtlantic Center] seemed like they knew what was going on, and couldn't get solid answers. I'm not offended, just annoyed. It was just a promo that was falsely advertised, poorly carried out and then they didn't own up to the poor execution.”
Panthers spokesman Matt Sacco said about 1,500 yarmulkes were given to group ticket buyers, who were pleased with the promotion.
“It was for people who bought the tickets for Jewish Heritage Night group night,” Sacco said. He said he could understand the confusion, but the team quickly changed the item on the team’s website.
Panthers President Michael Yormark issued this statement: "Based on the success of the biggest Hanukkah Party in South Florida last night during the Panthers-Avalanche game at the BankAtlantic Center, we are definitely considering expanding the program in years to come. Also, any fans that were at the game but did not get a Panthers yarmulke, I'd urge you to call our ticket sales department and speak to one of our sales representatives."
Even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman referred to the giveaway when addressing the local media before last night’s game, saying “If there’s a hat trick tonight the fans will throw yarmulkes like they’re Frisbees.”