DENVER – They were the No. 8 seeds. They barely made the playoffs after an up and down regular season. They had to face the No. 1 overall seed in the 1st round of the postseason. They needed to win Game 7 in Boston just to keep their seasons alive. They are the Eastern Conference champions. They are each four wins from a championship.
This is the story of the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers.
And it might have an ending like no other.
There has never been a season in which one city – or one metropolis, in this case – has celebrated both the NBA title and the NHL’s Stanley Cup. There have been nine previous attempts; in two cases there has been an NHL title and no NBA crown, in three cases there has been an NBA title and no NHL crown, and in the remaining four cases both teams have lost.
South Florida has a chance to change that. Larry, meet Stanley. Stanley, meet Larry.
“That would be insane. … If it ever happened, it would be truly amazing,” said Florida star Matthew Tkachuk, who scored three goals for the Panthers in the Eastern Conference final against Carolina. “It’s just great how both fanbases have been able to root for each other.”
That’s how it will continue. The NBA Finals begin in Denver on Thursday night (8:30 p.m., ABC) as the Heat host the Nuggets; The Stanley Cup Finals begin in Las Vegas on Saturday night as the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Panthers.
Past Examples of 2 Contenders City Year NBA Team NHL Team NBA Finals Finals NHL Finals Bay Area 2015-16 Warriors Sharks Cavs win, 4-3 Penguins win, 4-2 New Jersey 2002-03 * Nets Devils Spurs win, 4-2 Devils win, 4-3 New York 1993-94 * Knicks Rangers Rockets win, 4-3 Rangers win, 4-3 Chicago 1991-92 * Bulls Blackhawks Bulls win, 4-2 Penguins win, 4-0 Philadelphia 1979-80 * Sixers Flyers Lakers win, 4-2 Islanders win, 4-2 Boston 1973-74 * Celtics Bruins Celtics win, 4-3 Flyers win, 4-2 New York 1971-72 * Knicks Rangers Lakers win, 4-1 Bruins win, 4 -2 Boston 1957-58 * Celtics Bruins Hawks win, 4-2 Canadiens win, 4-2 Boston 1956-57 * Celtics Bruins Celtics win, 4-3 Canadiens win, 4-1
* = both series held at the same stadium
There could be as many as 14 championship games involving the Heat and Panthers in 19 days. Starting Thursday, there will be eight games in 10 days — no game for either sport on June 2, no game for either sport on June 6 and four games in a four-night stretch in South Florida that begins June 7. there are never two games on the same night either.
“I know it’s fun to watch,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I’m not sure what they’re doing, but it’s 5 on 5, right? I understand that. There is a connection between the two teams through sports fans down here. So, there are hockey fans who are probably like me, but now it’s called because it’s just a great story. And it’s fun to be a part of that.”
How the Panthers made it to the Stanley Cup Final
Made it to the playoffs as the second wild card from the Eastern League. Defeated Boston 4-3 in Round 1 (won Game 7 in Boston), beat Toronto 4-1 in Round 2, beat Carolina 4-0 in the finals of the East.
How the Heat made it to the NBA Finals
Made it to the playoffs after winning the second playoff game. Beat Milwaukee 4-1 in Round 1, beat New York 4-2 in Round 2, beat Boston 4-3 in Eastern Finals (won Game 7 in Boston).