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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Matthew Tkachuk: ‘People Talking about Hockey Everywhere in South Florida’

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Matthew Tkachuk looks into the crowd after he was dunked during the 2023 All Star Skills Showcase on Fort Lauderdale Beach. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

SUNRISE — When Matthew Tkachuk arrived in South Florida, he noticed that, despite being one of the most recognizable players in the NHL, he could traverse around his Fort Lauderdale neighborhood without much problem.

As that first year went on, the Panthers got better.

Tkachuk won MVP in the All-Star Game which was held in his new home and it did not take long before he could not just slide in and out of his favorite joints without someone noticing.

Now?

Forget about it.

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“The support around here has been amazing,’’ Tkachuk said on Friday at media day before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton kicks off tonight.

“It keeps growing, almost daily from when I first started playing in the NHL for Calgary, coming here in 2016, it’s night and day from what it is right now.

“You see the success the team’s having and it’s only helping everybody in the community. So many people are into hockey, people are coming up to us left and right in Fort Lauderdale.

“I’ve been in West Palm and Miami the past week and both places, both sides of it are just so excited. People are talking about hockey everywhere in South Florida.”

And why not?

The Panthers are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year — and in both of Tkachuk’s seasons here — as they try to bring the most famous trophy in sports to South Florida to hang out in the sun for a bit.

Tkachuk was a big reason why the Panthers made it to the Final against Vegas last year, although a fractured clavicle in Game 3 slowed his ability to help Florida against the Golden Knights.

Today is a new day for Tkachuk and the Panthers.

Last year is in the past.

The Panthers are ready for another shot at glory.

“It’s kind of like a Christmas Eve feeling right now,’’ Tkachuk said. “It’s been a long week trying to keep your mind off it as much as possible, and just enjoy the warm weather the outside as much as you can, but it’s hard not to think about Game 1 and now that it’s finally almost here, it’s more exciting now.”

Tkachuk is not the most popular fellow in Edmonton, a place he would have no problem ever not being recognized in.

He started his career in Calgary and was a big part of the Battle of Alberta rivalry with the Oilers.

Tkachuk’s final game with the Flames came in a playoff loss to Edmonton in the 2022 Western Conference semifinals.

The Oilers will be trying to win their first Cup since 1990 and bring it back to Canada for the first time since 1993.

“When you play a team in Canada, there’s a different type of passion and spotlight,’’ Tkachuk said. “Not only Edmonton, but Canada is going to be glued to their TVs watching.

“Playing in Calgary, you see the passion Canadian fans have. I don’t think it’s much different from the fans down here, to be honest. Everyone’s into it. It’s going to be a great series.”

As for the reaction to him in Edmonton?

 “I don’t know,’’ Tkachuk said. “Last year, I was booed every time I touched the puck. This year there was nothing. So, I have no idea.”

For More FHN Coverage of the Florida Panthers:

2024 STANLEY CUP FINAL
EDMONTON OILERS VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS 
GAME 1
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Betting Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-145); Puck line (-1.5, +165); Over/Under 5.5 (-120/-110). Series Panthers -150
  • Series Schedule, All Games 8 p.m. on ABC — Game 1:Edmonton at Florida, Saturday; Game 2: Edmonton at Florida, Monday; Game 3: Florida at Edmonton, Thursday; Game 4: Florida at Edmonton, Saturday June 15; Game 5*: Edmonton at Florida, Tuesday June 18; Game 6*: Florida at Edmonton, Friday June 21; Game 7*: Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 24. (*) – If Necessary
  • How They Got Here — Florida: d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2, New York Rangers 4-2; Edmonton: d. Los Angeles 4-1, Vancouver 4-3, Dallas 4-2.
  • This Season (Florida Won 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Oilers 3 (Nov. 20). At Edmonton: Panthers 5, Oilers 2 (Dec. 17).
  • Last Season: Edmonton Won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Oilers lead 23-16-0, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First Meeting

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