The Vegas-Florida Stanley Cup Final was bereft of the two factors that make for easy narratives: history and geography. These teams had played only ten games, total, against each other before Saturday night. They’d each only ever made it to one Final before, both in losing efforts. And though I’ve never been to either city, I don’t imagine Vegas and Miami spend much time sneering in the other’s direction, and won’t until there’s maybe an international strobe light shortage.
But you can define each of these relative newcomers to the late stages of the playoffs by the contrast between the plastic animals their fans throw on the ice. In Vegas, it’s flamingos, which primarily recalls a casino whose entertainment history dates all the way back to Judy Garland. In Florida, they throw rats, a throwback to Scott Mellanby killing a rat in their locker room before the first home game of the franchise’s best season to date.
And if the Golden Knights’ Game 1 win is any indication, this will in fact be a Stanley Cup between polished showbiz professionals and the rats that peek their heads out from under the stage after everyone goes home. The Knights, before the puck even dropped, showed what they were all about with a memorably kitschy pregame that pitted a Knight against … not a Panther, actually, but an evil man.
Florida’s arena won’t get a chance to deliver a live spectacle until Game 3—for my money it should just be one single rat released on the ice—but their boys demonstrated that they knew how to handle a hostile crowd in the early going of the first period.
It’s wild watching this eight-seed playoff team ride the streak they’re on while still holding memories of last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners. Andrew Brunette’s 2021-22 squad, with its shaky goaltending and its cocaine offense, won by hastily tossing buckets of water off the boat as they became veterans of the multi-goal comeback. The defensive deficiencies were too much to make up for with Paul Maurice behind the bench in 2022-23, but now that Sergei Bobrovsky has finally been rock-solid in net, and King Rat Matthew Tkachuk has taken over leadership of this team, the Panthers are a confident, edgy group that looks to unnerve their opposition at all times. For one example of their quirky self-assured grittiness, here’s how Marc Staal described their latest postgame locker room tradition:
“It’s not a dog bone. It’s a t-bone. Long story short, one of our trainers ate this massive piece of steak, and it had a bone in it. He finished the whole thing and he was hurting afterward. We just took the bone and now it’s for hard work—the best player, like, someone who’s grinding. Because he was grinding eating that piece of meat….
Read More: Vegas Will Tolerate No Rats In The Cup 2023-06-04 16:16:00