The Florida Panthers’ off-season and start to the campaign hasn’t been without its bizarre headlines. First there was the unexpected front-office shuffle during the summer, followed by the head-scratching firing of coach Gerard Gallant, which came only weeks before reports surfaced of yet another minor shuffle in the front office that was met with confusion throughout the hockey world.
And, somehow, none of that has been quite as odd as Panthers owner Vincent Viola earning himself a nomination to serve as Secretary of the Army under President-elect Donald Trump. The Senate will need to confirm the pick before Viola officially takes on the duty.
“If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy,” Viola said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald. “A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America's soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict. This great honor comes with great responsibility, and I will fight for the American people and their right to live free every day.”
Viola has a history with the army, serving as an Army Ranger and graduating from West Point in 1977. The influence of the U.S. military on the Panthers franchise was obvious this past summer as the team rebranded with some nods to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which is the division Viola served during his time as a serviceman.
“I am proud to have such an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual as Vincent Viola as our Secretary of the Army,” Trump said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald. “Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge.
“He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others. The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”
To go along with Monday’s announcement, the Panthers stated that Viola’s ownership stake will be put in a trust to be run by the Viola family. Doug Cifu, currently serving as the Panthers’ vice chairman and alternate governor, will step into Viola’s role chairman and governor of Sunrise, Sports and Entertainment.
"As Vinnie's long-time business partner and friend, I'm humbled by the commitment to service he is demonstrating by accepting this great nomination," said Cifu in a release. "While we all miss his leadership and guidance day to day, his mentorship over these many years has prepared me to take on this humbling responsibility with the Panthers and the NHL and I look forward to continuing his legacy and vision once he is confirmed.”
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