Watch CBS News

Panthers write another chapter in South Florida vs. New York sports lore: CBS News Miami's Steve Goldstein

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

MIAMI — From Don Shula to Wayne Gretzky to Dan Marino to Pat Riley to Richard Todd to Alonzo Mourning to Josh Beckett and countless others, South Florida versus New York has been an epic rivalry.

It continues in 2024 with the Panthers taking on the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final. Two great teams that rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, combined beating stalwarts Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes along the way, all championship contenders. The winner goes to the Stanley Cup Final.

For just the second time ever the Panthers meet the Rangers in the playoffs continuing the regional rivalry. In advance, I apologize for bringing up some painful sports memories!

South Florida vs NY, Again

With so many New York natives living in South Florida, sports matchups between teams from the two areas take on a bigger meaning. The atmosphere and buzz in the stands are just different.

Dolphins vs Jets

These games always have more juice to them.

Remarkably since the Miami Dolphins' inception in 1966, they have only played once in the playoffs. The 1982 season was interrupted by an NFL strike. But when the championship game rolled around in January of 1983 the Dolphins and New York Jets were the two teams left standing. In a rain-soaked Orange Bowl, led by AJ Duhe (if you don't know, look it up) the Dolphins beat New York 14-0. Duhe intercepted Jets quarterback Richard Todd three times including the game-clinching 35-yard touchdown return in the 4th quarter. Older Dolphins fans have that vivid memory of a muddy # 77 white uniform jogging into the open-end zone at the Orange Bowl with the football in his outstretched arm overhead. The Jets accused Don Shula and the Dolphins of intentionally not covering the field to turn the game into a sloppy mess to slow down the Jets' offense.

It would be 37 years until the Dolphins shut out the Jets again, in 2020. The Dolphins have dominated the series in recent memory, winning 13 of the last 16 games over the past eight seasons. Over the history of the rivalry, they have played five overtime games with the Jets winning them all, including the Epic Dan Marino vs Ken O'Brien shootout game in 1986 and the "Monday Night Miracle" in 2000 when the Dolphins blew a 30-7 lead in the fourth quarter (sorry to bring that up again).

Heated Hoops

The Miami Heat and New York Knicks have had their share of epic playoff battles back in the 1990s, usually becoming so heated that fistfights broke out (again, if you don't know, look up the video of Jeff Van Gundy and PJ Brown!). Where's Charlie Ward these days anyway? They played every year in the playoffs from 1997 through 2000 with every series going to dramatic decisive games.

The bad blood was evident, led by the Pat Riley story who had left the Knicks just a few years before. The Knicks won three times (Allan Houston, look it up) but the Heat got some measure of revenge in 2012 and 2023. Those wins though pale in comparison to the three heartbreaking losses the Heat suffered. That rivalry in the 90's will never be matched. Firstly, it was just a different time when nasty basketball was welcomed. But mainly it's because the teams were extremely physical and most importantly genuinely disliked each other personally, bordering on hate. It made for great sports theater.

Marlins Upset Yankees

In 2003, the upstart Marlins beat the Yankees in the World Series, winning the clincher in the Bronx. Yankee fans are still smarting from that young, underdog Marlins team that shocked the baseball world. The memory of teenager Miguel Cabrera taking Roger Clemens deep at the current Hard Rock Stadium (yes, the Marlins used the play there) is still vivid. One of the franchise highlights is still Alex Gonzalez's 12th-inning home run in the rain to give the Marlins a 3-2 series lead.

Panthers, You're Up

Now it's the Panthers' turn to carry on the tradition of the regional rivalry. Back in 1997, the Rangers beat the Panthers in five games, clinching the series in overtime at old Miami Arena. Like this year the Panthers were coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance the previous season. The teams split the first two games of that series 27 years ago before the series shifted to Madison Square Garden. In truly heartbreaking fashion the Rangers tied game three with 19 seconds left. This after the Panthers came back from trailing by two goals. Esa Tikkanen won it in overtime. Wayne Gretzky then scored a hat trick in game four and Tikkanen, who would later play for the Panthers, scored in overtime again and clinched the series.

The Panthers didn't win another playoff game until 2012, a long 15-year wait. They did play the Islanders in the first round of the 2016 playoffs won by New York in six games. The decisive game was a heartbreaker in double overtime. The Panthers led by a goal as time wound down with Vincent Trocheck ready to score an empty net goal to force game 7 back at (now) Amerant Bank Arena. But 'Trochek was tripped' (another to look up) and the referees didn't make the call. The Islanders tied the game late and then won the series on John Tavares' goal.

Now, with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final at stake, both teams confident and with top players playing their best this series should be one that people talk about for decades to come. And the Panthers have a chance to give South Florida a leg up in one of the great regional rivalries in sports history.


Game 1 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden and then games will be played every other day. The Rangers have home-ice advantage so the Panthers host Games 3, 4 and 6 if necessary. Home ice hasn't proven to matter much. The Panthers are 4-2 at home in the playoffs and 4-1 on the road. The team is ultra-competitive with their physical, hard-nosed style of hockey that travels well.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.