In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino noted with the NBA lockout appearing to come to an end, the NHL Panthers "won't have an unobstructed path to the South Florida sports fan's wallet for much longer." But the Panthers "took advantage of these past two months to grab as much attention as they could from a skeptical fan base." Panthers RW Jack Skille said, "For the time being, people have seen a lot of energy at our games and I think they're excited about it. You can see the crowds getting bigger." Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said, "I want as many people talking about the Florida Panthers as possible in the area. I want us to be on the radar. We want people to know we're an exciting night out" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/29).
LITES WILL GUIDE THE WAY: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel notes the sale of the Stars is "just a first step for this once distinguished franchise's long march back to relevance in this town." There are "so many mistakes this team made, some self-inflicted and others not, that to think a new owner can solve all of them immediately is foolish." Even though Jim Lites will "freely admit he made a few mistakes in his tenure as the team president previously, the decision to bring him back is the absolute right one." Engel writes, "Say whatever you want about this man, but he deeply cares about this sport and this franchise in this market." Lites said that he plans to ask former NHLer Mike Modano to "become a visible face of this franchise again, but not until next summer" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/30).
REFRESHING APPROACH: In Phoenix, Dan Bickley notes the "collateral damage from a nasty work stoppage has negatively impacted" Suns Owner Robert Sarver's image, which "wasn't exactly glowing." Sarver "must find the right blend of charm and restraint, reaffirming Phoenix as a destination city for future free agents." Sarver has "charged every department in the organization to come up with something new for the upcoming season, something that will add to the fan experience, something that marks the dawn of a new era." It is called "Project Refresh," and after "all these years of heartbreak, it's time for a new beginning." Bickley: "That goes for the owner. That goes for everyone" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/30).
GM FOR NOW: On Long Island, Alan Hahn noted Knicks Owner James Dolan "appointed [Glen] Grunwald, whose official title remains senior vice president of basketball operations, to the role of interim general manager in June when Donnie Walsh decided not to return as team president." Sources said it is likely that Grunwald "will hold the position for the entire 2011-12 season." Sources also said that the Knicks have "yet to formally interview any candidates to replace Walsh." The "sense is that Grunwald ... can handle the job for now" (NEWSDAY, 11/29).