The National Hockey League and new television partner Turner Broadcasting did the Florida Panthers no favors when it came to scheduling for this second round series putting all four home games in direct conflict with the Miami Heat.
Due to when TNT is contracted to have the games played, the Panthers will be competing locally with the much more successful basketball team to the south.
Turner Broadcasting’s TNT will carry the Panthers-Tampa Bay Lightning series on days it does not have the NBA Western Conference final.
The Panthers and Lightning open this highly-anticipated second-round series Tuesday night in Sunrise.
The Heat and Boston Celtics open the Eastern Conference final that night in Miami.
All four of the Panthers’ scheduled home games in this series are in direct competition with Heat home games.
Due to a concert in Tampa that the Lightning could/would not reschedule, this series is the only one of the four remaining in the NHL to have a back-to-back game in it.
All of this is because TNT has a specific window of coverage days.
Game 4 could have been on Tuesday — and put on TBS — but the TNT night is Monday so, it’s a back-to-back.
Had the Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 7 against the Rangers, this may not have been the case.
ESPN took the New York/Carolina series and Turner took the Panthers/Lightning.
So, ESPN is also to blame for this.
The New York-Carolina schedule would have fit the Florida-Tampa Bay series perfectly — and eliminated all conflicts with the Heat.
If it was Penguins/Hurricanes, ESPN likely would have taken the Sunshine State battle and all of this would have been avoided.
Why does TNT have to squeeze the games into this window?
Because of the NBA, of course.
Turner spends a lot of money — like, a LOT — to cover the Western Conference finals. Their hockey coverage will alternate with their NBA coverage.
Basically, the Heat are on ESPN one day, then TNT gets basketball the next.
Many will post on social media that the NBA is of no interest to them and this scheduling has no bearing on the Panthers.
And, in some cases that is true.
But in this market, looking at the larger picture, the Heat reign supreme.
It has earned its standing over the years.
In the 26 years it took the Panthers to win a single playoff series, the Heat went out and became one of the premiere franchises in all of sports with three titles and numerous trips to the conference and league finals.
The Panthers were hoping to really open the eyes of South Florida to their product with this series — and perhaps they will.
Game 1 does start about 90 minutes before the Heat tipoff with the Celtics.
Maybe some fans will stick with the hockey game and not switch channels — or at least go back-and-forth.
Most of the local media in town now have to make a choice of which game to cover.
For many of them, it is an easy decision. They are headed to Miami.
As far as physical fans in the building go, the Panthers and Heat have a different season ticket base.
The Panthers are Broward and Palm Beach heavy, but there are some fans who try and attend both when they can.
And then there is the “big event” fan. The bandwagon jumper. See you in Miami, pal.
If the two teams simply stayed away from one another, this could have been avoided.
Remember when the Panthers took this town as their own back in 1996?
Many of you do not, but believe us, they did.
For a few years, the Panthers were bigger than the Heat. Then things changed for obvious reasons: The Heat got good and the Panthers hit the skids.
When Miami made its playoff runs, it now had no local competition. Everyone here was tuned into the Heat.
In 1996, part of the Panthers’ allure was that they were not only winning — but they were the only game in town save for the Marlins.
At least the Panthers have that prime window of Sunday afternoon at 1:30 all to themselves.
Whatever the Panthers do in this series, however, they will be fighting for eyeballs, coverage and fans with the Heat.
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING
- Game 1: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Full schedule — Game 1: Tampa Bay at Florida (TNT), 7; Game 2: Tampa Bay at Florida, Thursday, 7 (TNT); Game 3: Florida at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 1:30 (TNT); Game 4: Florida at Tampa Bay, Monday, 7 (TNT); Game 5*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Wednesday, May 25 (Time, TV TBA); Game 6*: Florida at Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, May 27 (Time, TV TBA); Game 7*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Sunday, May 29 (Time, TV TBA). (*) — If necessary.
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING
- Regular season series — Tied 2-2: Florida 4, @Lightning 1 (Oct. 19); @Lightning 3, Florida 2 OT (Nov. 13); @Florida 9, Lightning 3 (Dec 30); Tampa Bay 8, @Florida 4 (April 24).
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 73-49-18, 10 ties
- Playoff history: Second meeting; Tampa Bay d. Florida 4-2 in R1, 2021
- Round 1 — Florida d. Washington 4-2 — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida 3, @Washington 2 (OT); Game 5: @Florida 5, Washington 3; Game 6: Florida 4, Washington 3 (OT).
- Round 1 — Tampa Bay d. Toronto 4-3