Among professional sports teams in Florida, only two rivalries really carry much weight and have serious implications in the standings. It’s no coincidence the meaningful cross-state rivalries are the ones that involve teams competing within the same division, playing each other the maximum number of times allowed. On Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Panthers for the 106th time since the rivalry got its start on Oct. 9, 1993. Florida won that game 2-0 in front of 27,227 at what is now Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to earn the franchise’s first victory. The Panthers have won 54 meetings between the two since. “That’s our rivalry,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “You get across the Everglades, and we want to pound them every time we play them.” Tampa Bay and Florida were naturally put in the same division — like the NBA’s Heat and Magic — since Day 1. That gives those games some meaning as both teams battle for the same playoff spots. Other professional teams in Florida don’t have such a relationship because of conference and league boundaries.
Next chapter for rivalry between Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning
Miami Herald | Feb 16