Chasing big brother Tampa Bay is an annual quest for the Panthers
AS ONE OF THE NHL’S most poorly managed teams in its 21 years – and one that has made the playo s just once since 2000 – the Florida Panthers are all but bereft of the high-stakes moments that create world-class rivalries. But they continue to try heating things up with their most natural foes, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the early days of the two franchises, it was easy to stoke the intra-state fires. Before a game was even played between the teams, the GMs of the Panthers (Bob Clarke) and Bolts (Phil Esposito) were attacking each other in the press, with Esposito saying the Lightning would “beat the hell out of” Florida and Clarke calling his counterpart in Tampa a pussycat. But since then, Tampa has had greater success, necessitating a jump-start campaign.
That came in the form of the Governor’s Cup, launched in 2013 and awarded to the winner of the annual series between the clubs. Last year’s inaugural Cup went to Tampa, who won all four games by a combined score of 22-10.
The two teams meet Oct. 9, March 1, March 24 and April 4.