Why a Panthers vs. Hurricanes Eastern Conference Final is Good for Hockey

Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach/NHLI via Getty Images

When thinking about hockey, most people assume that the best teams reside in cold climates. A Boston Bruins vs. Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup Final, as some predicted, wouldn’t be a surprise and wouldn’t help create future NHLers. The television ratings might be better, but that doesn’t always mean much in the grand scheme of things.

In 2023, hockey fans get treated as a rarity in hockey. All four teams competing for the right to play for the Stanley Cup are in the Southern United States or warm weather climates. They are also all expansion franchises that haven’t won in a while.

The Eastern Conference Final between the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes presents an opportunity to grow the game in markets that don’t normally get much exposure nationally.

Given a chance to compete on a national stage, both of these teams are inspiring young hockey players all around the world to work hard, train hard and likely become the next generation in a sport that will be looking for the next Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid in the next 10 years.

Think about it. When most of the current generation was beginning their journey to the NHL, Canada was winning their last Cup, as the Montreal Canadiens won it in 1992. Since then, a salary cap has been implemented, giving every team a chance to win.

From 2010 to 2019, the Stanley Cup mostly lived on the West Coast or in the Midwest. The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks combined to win five Cups in that span. Throw in the St. Louis Blues in 2019, and those areas won six of nine championships.

Recently, Florida and the South have had success on and off the ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference Final six of the last eight years, dating back to 2015. They also became only the second team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021.

Their brothers to the South not only hosted this year’s NHL All-Star Game and an NHL Draft in recent years, but they also won the President’s Trophy as the best regular season team in 2021-22. This season, they entered the playoffs on the final day of the regular season before dispatching the record-setting Boston Bruins in a seven game series. They then beat the Toronto Maple Leafs with relative ease to advance to their first conference final since 1996.

Carolina, meanwhile, has been successful recently. They hosted a Stadium Series game this season at Carter-Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack, and have been in the playoffs each of the last five years. They advanced to the conference finals in 2019 before falling to Boston.

With the recent success of both franchises on full display over the next two weeks, hockey fans everywhere win. The ability to grow the game in nontraditional markets will lead to a new generation of players leaving their mark on the sport as a whole. What could be better than that?

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

The boys are back after a long break but have plenty to talk about as the playoffs are in full swing. We go series by series, looking at how teams have fared so far and who will come out on top. Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Stanley Cup Aspirations
  2. The Final Countdown
  3. Here Come the Playoffs
  4. Home Stretch
  5. Kevy Cooks

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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