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Diehard Panthers fans get a taste of disappointment after Game 5 loss

Florida Panthers fans react at the end of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3.
Wilfredo Lee
/
AP
Florida Panthers fans react at the end of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3.

For the last two weeks, while the Florida Panthers have been doing battle with the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup, a red sea of fans has been crowding sports bars like Flanigan’s in Sunrise to show their support.

On Tuesday night spirits were particularly high. The South Florida team had a chance to clinch what would be its first NHL title, while playing just down the road at the Amerant Arena.

“We have been waiting for this for a really long time, and I think to do it during such a huge season for us, it being our 30th season as a team,” said Meghan Trollinger. “I definitely think we can take this one home.”

Like many avid Cats fans, Trollinger keeps handy her lucky rat — whom she named Benny, after the Panthers player Sam Bennett. It has been a tradition for fans to throw rubber rats on the ice after a goal, after Panthers player Scott Mellanby killed a rat by slamming it with his hockey stick and used that same stick in a winning game in 1995.

READ MORE: Florida Panthers, with help from NHL, push to grow hockey in Latino communities

“They deserve everything that's happening to them and they deserve all the winning,” said Johnnathan Serge. “They deserve all the praise that all these hardcore Panther fans have been giving to them.”

A lifelong fan, Serge could have gone two miles down the road to his neighborhood Flanigan’s in Kendall. Instead, he crossed county lines just to see the crucial game at the restaurant’s Sunrise location.

“Hockey is the most fun sport you could watch live [more than any other sport] — soccer, basketball, even American football,” Serge said. And the Miami native stands by it.

“The fast pace of it — the fact that if you blink, you're missing something,” he said. “You have to be there to accept its beauty.”

Fans at a Flanigan's restaurant in Sunrise, Fla., watch the Florida Panthers lose 5-3 to the Edmonton Oilers in Game Five of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.
Alyssa Ramos
/
WLRN News
Fans at a Flanigan's restaurant in Sunrise, Fla., watch the Florida Panthers lose 5-3 to the Edmonton Oilers in Game Five of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

Pride was high. But the Panthers got off to a bad start, being pinned back 3-0. The crowd at Flanigan’s roared and chanted as the home team mounted a fightback in the second period.

READ MORE: Florida Panthers, with help from NHL, push to grow hockey in Latino communities

“Our hearts are in our throats. My voice is a little muffled, because my heart is pounding in my throat,” Serge told WLRN.

But it wasn’t to be — at least not yet. The Panthers went down 5-3 to lose their second consecutive game in the series as the cup slipped out of their grasp in Game 5. They still lead the series, 3-2.

Neil Doherty was one of the few people at Flanigan’s repping Canada. He and his wife came down from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale for a cruise.

“As soon as I knew we were coming here, and game five was here, I was planning to come into the arena and just take in the festivities,” he said.

Panthers fans who now must endure another game — this time back in Canada — for a chance to clinch victory. Game 6 takes place on Friday.

READ MORE: A South Florida hockey club carves out a space for women on the ice

However, Tuesday night wasn’t a total loss.

Stephanie Sarnataro, a bartender at Flanigans, feeds off the energy of game day and doesn’t mind if the games continue just a little bit longer.

“If they win we get slammed, and at the end if they don’t win we still get slammed — which is awesome,” she said.

Elise Catrion Gregg is a summer 2024 intern for WLRN. She is finishing her master's degree in criminal justice from Florida International University, where she also earned her bachelor's degree in journalism.
Alyssa Ramos is the multimedia producer for Morning Edition for WLRN. She produces regional stories for newscasts and manages digital content on WLRN.
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