The Governor's Cup refers to an American professional ice hockey rivalry between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. Both the Lightning and the Panthers compete in the National Hockey League (NHL)'s Atlantic Division. It was originally called the Sunshine Cup and later the Nextel Cup Challenge.
Shortly before the two teams met for the first time ever, at the Lakeland Civic Center in a preseason game, Lightning founder and general manager Phil Esposito saw an opportunity to drive ticket sales and began making disparaging remarks about the Panthers organization. Coach Terry Crisp joined his GM, by referring to them as "pussycats" during a luncheon a few days later. All of this upset Florida general manager Bobby Clarke, who in their playing days was a former teammate of Crisp's, and rival of Esposito's. Crisp later played it off as merely part of the entertainment aspect of the sport.
In the first of four preseason meetings, 3,876 fans watched Tampa Bay defeat Florida, 4–3 on September 16, 1993. Esposito would continue to refer to Florida by the epithet "the stinking Panthers" for years to come.
The teams have been division rivals since the Panthers' first year, the 1993–94 season, but the Governor's Cup itself was first awarded in 2014, and not since. Specifically the cup's creation was described as an aim to increase the popularity of ice hockey within the state of Florida, as well as supporting youth hockey.
Though largely more associated with regional college football rivalries, the concept of an actual trophy for the winner of this season series was first introduced as the Sunshine Cup in between periods during their ever first regular season meeting in October 1993. It was described as a 15 pound trophy that Sunshine Network (the cable broadcast partner for both clubs) would make $10,000 match-donations to, for the benefit of the two teams' charities. During the 2003-04 season it was reintroduced as the Nextel Cup Challenge by the two clubs' marketing departments. That iteration which also lasted only one season, had the same secondary function of raising money for the teams' charitable foundations.
Although they've been in the same division every season for more than two decades, and faced one another more than any other opponent, players and coaches alike acknowledge that a true hockey rivalry in the spirit of classics like the Blackhawks/Red Wings, or even contemporaries like the Kings/Sharks tie, has failed to spark in large part because the two teams have yet to meet in the playoffs.
Including preseason ties, the two teams have faced off in eight different arenas throughout the state of Florida. In addition to their current home rinks of Amalie Arena and the BB&T Center, the Lightning and Panthers have met numerous times at their previous homes, the ThunderDome in St. Petersburg and the Miami Arena respectively. On December 26, 1993, they played a neutral-site, regular season match at the Orlando Arena. Three other arenas, the Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, the Amway Center in Orlando, and Germain Arena in Estero have also hosted preseason versions of the rivalry.
NHL attendance recordEdit
The teams' first regular season meeting came on October 9, 1993. That proved to be historic for two reasons, as 27,227 onlookers witnessed the Panthers earn their first ever win, 2–0, at the cavernous ThunderDome. That attendance mark remains the NHL record for a regular season game not played as part of the NHL Stadium Series, NHL Winter Classic or NHL Heritage Classic.
The winner of the season series is determined by the total number of points earned between the two teams in head-to-head matchups. Two points are awarded for a win, one point is awarded for losing in overtime or a shootout, and no points are awarded for a loss in regulation. Scores of games won by the series winning team are in bold. Prior to the 1999–2000 NHL season teams were not awarded a point for a loss in overtime and matches that ended in a tie resulted in each team earning one point in the standings. Only thrice in the rivalry has a team swept the season series. Florida did so in 1998–99, while Tampa Bay achieved it in 2013–14 and again in 2018–19.
As of the 2018–19 season the Panthers hold an edge of 13–11–1 in terms of series wins. Tampa Bay has won the season series four times in a row on two occasions, and the Panthers have done so once.
|Season||Winner (points)||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Game 6||Game 7||Game 8|
|1993–94||Florida Panthers (8–2)||2–0||3–3 (OT)||2–1(OT)||3–1||1–1 (OT)|
|1994–95||Florida Panthers (6–2)||2–3||4–2||4–1||4–1|
|1995–96||no winner (6–6)||4–1||7–2||5–3||4–2||2–1||2–1|
|1996–97||Florida Panthers (6–4)||3–3 (OT)||3–2||5–2||0–2||1–1 (OT)|
|1997–98||Florida Panthers (6–4)||2–1||2–2 (OT)||0–2||1–5||2–2 (OT)|
|1998–99||Florida Panthers (10–0)||4–1||2–1||3–1||1–0||6–2|
|1999–2000||Florida Panthers (9–1)||6–1||7–5||5–2||4–3||3–3 (OT)|
|2000–01||Tampa Bay Lightning (8–4)||2–1||1–2 (OT)||2–3 (OT)||4–3||4–2|
|2001–02||Tampa Bay Lightning (6–5)||0–5||3–2||1–3||3–2||3–2 (OT)|
|2002–03||Tampa Bay Lightning (8–3)||4–3 (OT)||6–1||4–4 (OT)||3–1||1–1 (OT)|
|2003–04||Tampa Bay Lightning (7–5)||0–4||2–2 (OT)||1–2||3–2||5–3||4–3|
|2004–05||NHL lockout (no season)|
|2005–06||Florida Panthers (12–6)||2–0||1–2||3–2 (OT)||8–2||6–5 (OT)||4–2||1–4||6–3|
|2006–07||Florida Panthers (11–7)||3–2||1–4||4–6||5–4 (OT)||2–3 (SO)||6–2||5–2||7–2|
|2007–08||Tampa Bay Lightning (8–8)#||2–1||4–6||3–4||3–1||5–3||2–3||2–4||3–1|
|2008–09||Florida Panthers (8–7)||4–0||4–3 (SO)||3–4 (SO)||4–6||4–3||3–4 (SO)|
|2009–10||Florida Panthers (7–6)||2–3||3–2||5–2||5–2||3–4 (SO)||1–3|
|2010–11||Florida Panthers (9–7)||6–0||4–3 (SO)||1–2 (SO)||3–2 (SO)||4–3 (OT)||2–4|
|2011–12||Tampa Bay Lightning (9–6)||2–3 (SO)||4–7||4–3 (SO)||2–1 (OT)||5–1||6–3|
|2012–13||Tampa Bay Lightning (7–5)||5–2||6–5 (OT)||3–2||2–3 (SO)||3–5|
|2013–14||Tampa Bay Lightning (8–1)||7–2||4–3 (SO)||6–1||5–4|
|2014–15||Tampa Bay Lightning (6–3)||2–1 (OT)||3–4||4–3||4–0|
|2015–16||Florida Panthers (8–3)||5–4 (SO)||1–0||1–3||5–2||5–2|
|2016–17||Florida Panthers (5–5)#||3–4 (SO)||3–1||2–1 (OT)||2–3|
|2017–18||Tampa Bay Lightning (6–3)||5–3||4–5||8–5||5–4 (OT)|
|2018–19||Tampa Bay Lightning (8–2)||2–1 (SO)</span>||7–3</span>||5–4 (OT)</span>||5–2</span>|
|2019–20||TBD (0–0)||Oct 3 (@T)||Oct 5 (@F)||Dec 10 (@F)||Dec 23 (@T)|
- ↑ Cummings, Roy. "Esposito's comments irk Clarke", Tampa Tribune, September 16, 1993, p. 1C. Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
- ↑ Cummings, Roy. "Lightning hold off Panthers", Tampa Tribune, September 17, 1993, p. 1C. Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fennelly, Martin. "Lightning, Panthers and crickets", Tampa Tribune, October 18, 2016, p. 26. Retrieved on March 13, 2018.
- ↑ Governor Scott, Panthers And Lightning Launch Governor’s Cup. lightning.nhl.com (October 10, 2013). Retrieved on December 23, 2013.
- ↑ "Battle for the cup", Tampa Bay Times, Oct 10, 1993, p. 6C. Retrieved on April 7, 2018.
- ↑ "St. Louis Becomes A Target", Tampa Tribune, April 2, 2004, p. 6C. Retrieved on March 13, 2018.
- ↑ Cummings, Roy. "Crowded out", Tampa Tribune, September 16, 1993, p. 1C. Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
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