Florida Panthers Maple Leafs playoffs

Busy Florida sports weekend causing schedule issues for Leafs-Panthers series

What do you get when you cross Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, and Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews?

One heck of a wild sports weekend in South Florida, it seems.

While Toronto will be hosting the Florida Panthers for Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Thursday, dates for Games 3 and 4 on the road have yet to be announced.

Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that the Miami area is already hosting two major sporting events this weekend: a Miami Heat-New York Knicks playoff game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., as well as the Formula One Miami Grand Prix with testing and qualifying events on Friday and Saturday, and the full race on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Saturday night is a traditional sweet spot for playoff hockey games — especially a big-market team like the Leafs, but it appears the logistical hurdles will be felt by both schedulers and fans interested in attending alike, with road closures and, well, a heck of a lot of extra tourists expected throughout the city.

"The F1 thing is a problem all weekend regardless," Florida Hockey Now's George Richards stated today.

Game 4 for the Heat is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m., which would also likely be a night that the schedule makers would like to avoid in order to not divide interest in the local market.

If there's any saving grace, the Panthers and Heat don't share an arena: the NHL team plays at FLA Live on the west side of Sunrise, Florida, while the Heat play at the Kaseya Center 56 kilometres (35 miles) to the south in downtown Miami. Meanwhile, the F1 track is in the middle of the two venues, centred around Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

Last year's Grand Prix weekend in Miami drew a reported 240,000 fans, including 85,280 in attendance on race day at Hard Rock Stadium to catch Max Verstappen's win.

For those visiting the area, it'll no doubt be a warm weekend, with temperature highs of 28 to 29 degrees expected Friday-Sunday.

But good luck finding a reasonably-priced hotel room or a good place to eat dinner without a reservation planned months in advance with the hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to the city.

Lead photo by

Florida Panthers


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