South Florida sports fans have spent the past few weeks glued to their televisions, reveling in the success of their beloved Miami Heat and Florida Panthers. In some sense, having two local playoff teams competing at the same time is a good problem to have. Such a phenomenon has not been a frequent occurrence in Miami, where the Panthers have been largely irrelevant for the past quarter-century (Florida’s opening-round victory over Washington was its first series win since 1996).
Which is why it was such a disappointment when the NBA and NHL announced the Heat and Panthers would both play their series openers Tuesday night. In fact, with the exception of Panthers/Lightning Game 3, slated for Sunday at 1:30 PM ET, the two series will unfold concurrently with games scheduled for May 19th, 23rd and, if necessary, the 25th, 27th and 29th.
Miami fans, generally speaking, aren’t the live-or-die breed seen in sports-crazy cities like Boston or Philadelphia. It’s also debatable how much overlap there is between the two fanbases (basketball and hockey tend to attract different age groups and demographics). Regardless, having the Heat and Panthers play on the same night six out of seven games is still an egregious oversight by league schedule-makers and worthy of the outrage expressed by frustrated fans on social media.
Of course, if you have an extra television at your disposal or the bandwidth to accommodate multiple streaming devices at once, there are certainly workarounds worth exploring. The Panthers also start earlier (7 PM ET), giving fans an hour-and-a-half cushion before the Heat tip off at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.
Still, this situation could easily have been avoided if the Panthers had simply started their series a day earlier (Florida’s first-round series concluded Friday with Tampa Bay advancing past Toronto the following night). Fans in Dallas experienced a similar conflict over the weekend with the Mavericks and Stars both playing Game 7s Sunday night (the Mavs routed Phoenix while the Stars lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Calgary).
The Heat, owners of the Eastern Conference’s top record during the regular season (53-29), are looking to reach the Finals for the second time in three seasons while the Panthers are seeking redemption after the Lightning eliminated them last year en route to the Stanley Cup.