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Sunrise and Edmonton: Hockey cities with big malls meet up in Stanley Cup final

In this file photo, Rob Veglia of Palm Beach Gardens arrives at FLA Live Arena, now called Amerant Bank Arena, for Game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals between the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights, Saturday, June 10, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla.
Image Credit: (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

EDMONTON - The mayor of Sunrise, Fla., a city near the edge of the Everglades, home to the NHL Panthers and conspicuously named to avoid death, says it's not that different from Edmonton.

They’re two smaller-sized cities punching above their weight on hockey’s biggest stage, says Michael Ryan.

And they’ve both got big malls.

"Edmonton is a bit smaller than some of the metropolises but has oversized power in terms of hockey. And that's how we feel in Sunrise,” Ryan said in an interview.

"It's a town a lot like Edmonton looking for an opportunity to raise the (Stanley) Cup.”

READ MORE: A look at NHL final rival cities Edmonton and Sunrise, Fla.

The Panthers host Game 1 of the seven-game Stanley Cup final series against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Sunrise, home to about 100,000, is a 40-minute drive from one of the concrete ribbons that snake out of downtown Miami.

It began as Sunrise Golf Village, incorporated in 1961 by developer Norman Johnson, who built model homes, including a full-scale upside-down house, to draw attention.

The village had fewer than 5,000 residents, with retirees whiling away their days hitting balls on a plethora of golf courses. By 1967, it officially became a city.

In 1971 – the same year the Oilers were announced as one of the original franchises in the old World Hockey Association — residents voted in a referendum to change its name to Sunrise.

Ryan laughed as he described how the plan was originally to call it Sunset.

READ MORE: Oilers, Panthers set to clash in Stanley Cup final: 'You're very close to your dream'

"We do have amazing sunsets over the Everglades. And at the time, there was some idea that would be a brilliant way of doing it," he said.

"(But the idea of) coming here for the sunset of your life may not be the most exciting.”

He said the city has evolved from a sleepy town to a corporate powerhouse, a hub for international corporations.

The Swedish shopping colossus Ikea has a home in Sunrise. And there are three hockey rinks.

"What's amazing about the South Florida community is there's a tremendous love of hockey, because mostly everyone has moved from other hockey towns,” Ryan said.

“It's not unusual to see fan jerseys from other teams at our games.”

And then there are the malls.

Sunrise’s Sawgrass Mills, billed as "the largest outlet and value retail shopping destination in the United States,” is comprised of 350 stores: jewelry, fashion, electronics, a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Bed Bath & Beyond.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers vs. Florida Panthers is a Stanley Cup Final of teams far apart in every way

About 5,000 kilometres and two time zones away to the northwest is West Edmonton Mall and its indoor water park, ice rink, pirate galleon, hotels and more than 800 stores.

There are other comparisons.

The Oilers have won five Stanley Cups but not since 1990. The Panthers, born in 1993, have never won.

The Panthers are named for a critter the state is trying to save from extinction.

The Oilers are named for Alberta’s prime economic driver that's under siege in the age of climate change. The province has said fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere for awhile and, if there is a last barrel of oil, Alberta will sell it.

The Florida team's mascot is a huggable panther named Stanley. Edmonton’s is a lynx named Hunter, an homage to the Oilers founding father, “Wild” Bill Hunter.

Edmonton fans show their playoff love by flying Oiler flags from their cars. Florida fans toss plastic rats on the ice, a talisman tradition honouring a 1990s player who once took his stick to swat a skittering dressing room rodent then went out and scored two goals in the game.

The Oilers started in a rink on the north side of Edmonton but recently moved to Rogers Place downtown. The Panthers started in a downtown Miami arena before moving to the outskirts of Sunrise at Amerant Bank Arena.

Alberta voted overwhelmingly for the Conservatives in the 2021 federal election. Sunrise is in Broward County, which saw voters go 2-to-1 for Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump for president in 2020.

Ryan said hockey fans in Sunrise know their team is going up against a storied franchise.

"All of us who are hockey fans are familiar with the dynasty of the Oilers in the ’80s and the amazing iconic players that were there," he said.

"(But) our mascot is Stanley, so we really do think of this as Stanley's cup."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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