, , ,

The Florida Panthers, last in attendance among National Hockey League teams, are trying to woo more Hispanic fans by broadcasting three games in Spanish this season.

1210-AM ESPN Deportes in Miami an ESPN Deportes 760 AM in West Palm Beach will carry the games beginning with the October 30 home tilt against the Arizona Coyotes on Hispanic Heritage Night.

When not stopping pucks, Al Montoya will be talking hockey on radio to woo Hispanic fans.

When not stopping pucks, Al Montoya will be talking hockey on radio to woo Hispanic fans.

The stations will also broadcast the January 15 home game between the Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche and the March 21 home match against the Boston Bruins.

“These radio broadcasts will help to continue to grow and enhance our brand and the game with our Hispanic fan base in the tri-county area,” said Rory A. Babich, the Panthers’ CEO and president.

Arley Londono, the Panthers’ original Spanish-language broadcaster from 1993 to 1996, will be the play-by-play man for the games and Octavio Sequera will serve as color analyst and host.

When he’s not between the pipes, Panthers goaltender Al Montoya, the National Hockey League’s first Cuban-American player, will be behind the mic talking hockey during weekly spots on 1210 AM ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes 760 radio shows.

Montoya joined the Panthers as a free agent in July after spending two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. The New York Rangers originally took Montoya with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft after he starred in net for the University of Michigan.

Although the Panthers are playing respectable hockey early in the 2014-15 season – a 2-2-2 record heading into the weekend – the team is struggling mightily at the gate.  The ‘Cats only average 9,365 fans at home, making the BB&T Center in Sunrise seem cavernous. The team averages 17,503 fans on the road.

Given the presence of NHL teams in areas with large Hispanic/Latin-American populations – New York, Los Angeles and, Dallas – it’s surprising that more teams don’t offer Spanish-language game broadcasts.

Players like defenseman Alec Martinez, who scored the goal that clinched the Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings last season, and San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres have helped draw more Hispanic/Latin-American fans to the game.

Some of the NHL’s broadcast partners, mindful of the changing demographics and immigration patterns in the United States and Canada, are expanding their radio and television offerings beyond the usual English and French.

“Hockey Night in Canada” continues its Punjabi telecasts this season and Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet, which owns HNIC’s broadcast rights, ultimately plans to offer introduction to hockey television spots – remember Peter Puck? – in 22 languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.