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'Unbelievable': Fans celebrate Florida Panthers' first Stanley Cup win after Game 7 nail-biter

A Florida Panthers player in a hockey rink raising the Stanley Cup trophy above their head.
Rebecca Blackwell
/
AP
Florida Panthers players celebrate after defeating the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers defeated the Oilers 2-1.

Florida Panthers fans gathered at the Baptist Health IcePlex to watch the winner-takes-all game. They were rightly nervous, but after a thrilling contest, rose to their feet to count down the clock and celebrate in unison as the final horn cemented the historic victory.

Florida Panthers fans were rightly nervous about their game 7 winner-take-all matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.

The stakes were simple. Victory and celebrate the team’s first ever Stanley Cup victory — or defeat and become the first team since 1942 to lose the finals after winning the first three games of the series.

Dale Triska was full of anxious energy before the puck dropped. “This is either gonna be the best night or the worst night ever,” he said.

Fans in the stands and on the ice stop to nervously watch the Florida Panthers game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Fans in the stands and on the ice stop to nervously watch the Florida Panthers game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Triska was one of the few thousand fans packing out the newly constructed Baptist Health IcePlex in downtown Fort Lauderdale to watch the game.

The team’s new practice facility was more than a suitable facsimile to a real gameday experience. Inside was an ice rink where skaters circled and fans filled the 500 or more seats overlooking the rink. In addition, the second floor concourse was full of fans with screens projected on every wall so no one missed a second of the action.

Just like a real game, diehard fans that sat in the front row pounded on the glass whenever there was a crucial defensive stop or goalkeeper save.

Yovany Boada, an avid follower for more than 15 years, was one of them.

“It is unbelievable to see my Panthers here after being a fan for so long,” he said, “So many years of being counted out, I love seeing them here to prove people wrong.”

Panthers fans filled the concourse at the Baptist Health IcePlex at watch game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Carlton Gillespie
/
WLRN
Panthers fans filled the concourse at the Baptist Health IcePlex at watch game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

But the game was not an easy coronation for the Panthers. After Florida forward Carter Verhaeghe opened the scoring, Edmonton’s Mattias Janmark equalized less than three minutes later. After one period it was all level at 1-1.

“I feel like my heart is being out of my chest. I can’t believe what I’m watching,” said Boada.

Then with less than five minutes to go in the second period, Panthers forward Sam Reinhart scored what would be the game-deciding goal.

READ MORE: Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers in Game 7 to avoid historic collapse

The entire third period was a crescendo of nervous excitement, and in the final seconds the fans rose to their feet one final time to count down the clock and celebrate the first championship in the team’s 30-year history.

Michael Amaya was overcome with emotion after the final horn sounded. “I’m the happiest person in the world,” he said through tears, “I don’t have words.”

Triska raised his arms in his well-worn David Booth jersey. It still had the old logo that the team retired in 2016, and Booth left the team in 2011. “Oh man,” he said, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.”

Up next for the panthers, a well deserved victory parade set for this Sunday.

Copyright 2024 WLRN Public Media

Carlton Gillespie