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Panthers downplay Stanley Cup travel woes after storm drenches Florida

EDMONTON — Dylan Holloway got wind of the storm delaying the Florida Panthers' trip north.

The Edmonton Oilers winger wasn't tracking the weather system that walloped the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area earlier this week, resulting in torrential rain, flooding and significant travel headaches.

Holloway also wasn't upset to hear his team's Stanley Cup opponent had its routine disrupted.

Despite there being 48 hours off between Game 2 and 3 of the final, the Panthers elected to fly to the Alberta capital Wednesday. The Oilers, meanwhile, travelled Tuesday after losing 4-1 on Monday to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven title series.

Florida's departure Wednesday was delayed more than three hours, with the team sitting on the tarmac awaiting the all-clear to take off.

The Panthers eventually got to Edmonton shortly after 8 p.m. local time — roughly 22 hours before the puck was set to drop Thursday for Game 3.

"Definitely heard about it," Holloway said with a little smile of the delay. "And not mad about it."

Florida, not surprisingly, downplayed the longer travel day and quick turnaround.

"Wasn't that big of a deal," Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk said. "It was pretty easy, to be honest."

Head coach Paul Maurice said the only downside was the impact on his staff's waistlines.

"The coaches put on seven pounds," he quipped. "That's the only ramification — we ate 12 meals. (The players) got on the plane … they played cards, they laughed. Every time one of the trainers walked in and he was soaked from head-to-toe he got a standing ovation.

"I'm joking around with that, but there's some people struggling right now in Florida. It's a serious thing that happened there. But our day was not serious."

Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues hinted that strings needed to be pulled to get the team on its way.

"We had some guys go behind the scenes to do things they usually don't to get us off the ground," he said. "Happy to finally take off."

Rodrigues added there was at least a little concern about getting up the air.

"If we had to leave (Thursday) morning, we would have," he said. "It's no excuses this time of the year. We would embrace the challenge. It was a unique experience.

"It was some serious rain coming down."

Hockey players are creatures of habit, but Oilers defenceman Vincent Desharnais said delays are nothing new.

"It's part of the game," he said. "When you travel for work, it's going to happen that you get stuck somewhere. You've just got to deal with it. Most of the guys who have played in the AHL, the ECHL, those things happen every two or three weeks. Get stuck somewhere, there's traffic somewhere, the bus breaks down.

"You just roll with it."

Holloway said the Oilers dealt with something similar to what the Panthers faced earlier this season when trying to get from St. Louis to Dallas.

"You're sitting on the plane a whole day," he said. "It just sucks. It's just a long day, legs are kind of heavy.

"Definitely not fun."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press