SUNRISE, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump chose Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola on Monday to serve as Army secretary.
Viola, a 1977 West Point graduate who bought the Panthers in 2013, will need to be confirmed by the Senate. If that happens, then — pending NHL approval — ownership of the Panthers would remain in the Viola family and his roles as chairman and governor of the club would be filled by Doug Cifu.
He would become the Army’s top civilian official.
“It is an honor to be nominated to serve our country,” Viola said.
Trump called Viola “an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual.”
“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,” Trump said. “He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others.”
Viola’s Army ties run deep and have carried over into his time leading the Panthers. The team has held training camps at West Point, played exhibition games there, has several West Point graduates and military veterans working in the front office and incorporates some military thinking into its day-to-day marketing strategies.
“Our hockey team has always been proud to be part of Mr. Viola’s legacy,” Panthers President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon said. “We admire his dedication to his country and are excited to watch him pursue this new endeavor.”
Trump, in announcing Viola as his pick, said he was “living proof of the American dream.”
Viola’s father served in the Army during World War II. Viola became the first member of his family — Italian immigrants living in Brooklyn — to attend college, served in the 101st Airborne Division, then was part of the U.S. Army Reserve after his active duty.
He’s a graduate of New York Law School, has long been involved with philanthropic projects and is a past winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2003, he founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
“We could not be more proud for Vinnie and his dedication to our country,” Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell said.