Rivalries are a funny thing in sport, and sometimes the more you want one, the more elusive it can end up being.
Let’s hope that’s not the case here with the Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken, but the Battle of Florida is proof that it doesn’t just happen because of a shared ecosystem or coastline.
Rivalries are certainly aided by playoff matchups and the Panthers haven’t exactly helped themselves, making the playoffs only eight times in their existence. But this isn’t the first time they’ve faced the Lightning, in fact it’s the second year in a row. And to the fans’ credit, they showed up for Game 1. And somehow, they all had Panthers jerseys in their closets too.
It was like everyone who has ever bought a ticket and jersey just happened to be available for Game 1 and bought a ticket. But just as amazing as their presence was, was the speed of their exit at 3-1 late in the game. Those folks rolled out like it was a school fire drill. Quickly, orderly, and boom — the rink was empty.
I’m not sure I have faith this is going to blow up like what we see in Alberta. A rivalry there that has roots so strong from its history that even a 31-year gap between playoff series hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm. And both teams have suffered through such long playoff droughts and series winning droughts, that the desperation level is almost akin to one of their series from the 80’s. Although, you can make that comparison in Florida too.
The Panthers are almost exactly like 1986 Flames. Facing the two-time champs, who have beaten them in recent playoffs as part of their recent dominance.. It’s all there. The kind of relief the Flames had in 1986, could be felt by Florida this year if they go on to beat Tampa Bay. The players anyway. But will anybody else care?
Rivalries can be a fickle thing. Let’s hope the Canucks get their fair shake at one with Seattle. But so much needs to happen.
Nevermind the Kraken improving enough to get into the playoffs, the Canucks need to as well. And even then, either both need to be quite good in order to be 2-3 in the division, or one has to be good enough to be a top seed facing the lower ranked team. That’s a lot to ask of these two teams right now. And by the time all that happens, do the people in Seattle even remember they have a team? Has the NBA overshadowed them at that point?
The only way to ensure it happens? These two teams get better, and they do it soon. Get on it.