Dave Hyde: Do you know the way to … Edmonton? South Florida meets polar, cultural opposite in Stanley Cup Final

FORT LAUDERDALE — Immediately after the final Dallas shot went wide of the net Sunday night, the TV screen filled with orange-clad fans shouting in civic frenzy as the announcer shouting over them: “And the Edmonton Oilers will be playing the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final!”

And South Florida wondered: Where, exactly, is Edmonton? It seems, as famed explorer Capt. James T. Kirk liked to say, “Out there.”

This is important, not just for those of us with travel plans to make, but because Edmonton will be linked forever with the Florida Panthers no matter how the final plays out. Think of Dan Marino and Joe Montana in that infamous soda commercial after the 1985 Super Bowl.

Think of Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley celebrating in the bowels of the Dallas arena after their first Miami Heat title. Think of Josh Beckett fielding that final soft grounder for the Marlins in a silent Yankee Stadium.

Now think of Edmonton as this series looms.

What comes to mind? Maybe Wayne Gretzky? Connor McDavid? Anything else? It sounds like heaven if you love hockey. And only hockey.

In fact, google “best hockey cities to visit,” and the travel site Expedia lists Edmonton first in a story titled, “22 Must-Visit Hockey Towns in North America.”

Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is second.

So, Edmonton is Antigonish with a few more Tim Horton’s donut shops. This isn’t some swipe at Edmonton. It’s to relate what this Final matchup looks like. Edmonton is South Florida’s polar and cultural opposite. It’s our winter doppelganger. (In fact, it’s still winter there as night-time temperatures will be in the 40s next week for Games 3 and 4).

If this series were a movie, it’s the oldie, “Twins,” with their Danny DeVito in a parka to our Arnold Schwarzenegger a swimsuit.

We’re Destinationland to much of the world, from South Beach tourists to Lionel Messi. We’re sun, fun and too-many guns. We’re also a casual hockey town beyond the fans who fill Amerant Bank Arena. That’s reflected in an e-mail I got from a reader last week with the Panthers standing on the edge of a second-straight Stanley Cup Final:

“How much does a hockey puck weigh? I’m saying a pound but my friends say more and want you to settle our bet ….”

Bonus question, South Florida: What’s the capital of Canada?

It burns Canadians that most Americans don’t know either answer (don’t point at me. I’ve spent many summers in Canada, enjoying their cottage industry of cottages on lakes). All this is relevant to understanding this series because it’s not just Edmonton-ites cheering for their team.

All of Canada is behind them. Maybe.

“You know what would be interesting, if you go to Calgary and ask (who it’s cheering for),’’ Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I don’t know what the answer is there.”

Calgary and Edmonton are the University of Miami and Florida on skates. Matthew Tkachuk said in being traded from Calgary to the Panthers before last season that he used to, “hate Edmonton but now I hate Tampa Bay.” Regardless …

“Ten million people will be tuning in, at least,’’ as Gretzky said on ESPN Sunday night.

He was referring to the Canadian viewership. Gretzky then injected the year, “1993,” in what’s one nation’s annual conversation. That’s the last time a Canadian team (Montreal) won the Stanley Cup. Get used to hearing it. This will be a theme of this series in some circles.

Edmonton’s players, of course, know all about this, so it’s either a patriotic motivation, a nationalistic pressure or has nothing to do with anything. Everyone will play the result in deciding which one it is.

“I don’t even have to say who I’m pulling for,’’ Gretzky said. “Everyone knows.”

He was an Edmonton great. He also lives in Florida now. That about sums up the two sides of this series linked by a six-hour, 2,567-mile flight – if a direct flight was available. Which it isn’t. Trust me.

So, it’s an eight-hour trip to Edmonton as Capt. Kirk flies. Is it too late for the NHL to make Vegas the permanent Western locale for the final?

Oh, and a hockey puck weighs six ounces. And the capital of Canada is Ottawa. And it’ll be the Panthers in six games, meaning a local championship will turn a hockey-town like Edmonton as quiet as Yankee Stadium once was.