'No loyalty to the Panthers': Edmontonians cheer on Oilers while living in Florida

Cunningham has been in Florida since 2004 and has fond memories of watching the 2006 Oilers Stanley Cup run in the Miami sun

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With their win on Sunday, the Edmonton Oilers are off to the Stanley Cup Final with the first game happening in Sunrise, Fla., where at least one expat Albertan eagerly awaits to watch the Oilers win in the sunshine state.

“I’m sure I feel like every single Edmontonian up there. It’s so thrilling, and you know, 2006 was a long time ago,” said Cristy Cunningham in an interview with Postmedia Monday.

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After a thrilling end to the third round of the playoffs, which saw Edmonton take down the Dallas Stars in a nail-biting 2-1 win, the Oilers will now face the Florida Panthers. The Panthers will be looking to set the record straight after losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights last year. As the Oilers get set to make the long journey south, there’s at least one family of devoted Oilers fans who will be cheering them on from South Miami.

Cunningham has been in Florida since 2004 and has fond memories of watching the 2006 Oilers Stanley Cup run in the Miami sun.

“That was the week I was getting married. It was fun because I had a lot of family in town for the wedding, so yeah, we went out to the pub and and watched every game and that was really cool,” she said.

Edmonton Oilers fans living in Florida
Robert Gomez, Ana Gomez, Ava Gomez and Cristy Cunningham all cheering for the Oilers at an away game in Sunrise, Fla. Photo by Supplied Photo /Cristy Cunningham

Tickets come cheap in a ‘bandwagon town’

Watching hockey in Florida is a bit different than watching in Edmonton for a few reasons, starting with the tickets.

For just $40, Cunningham can snag tickets in the lower section of the upper bowl to watch the Panthers play during the regular season. The low prices are fuelled by what Cunningham said is “a bandwagon town.”

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Cunningham, however, is no bandwagoner. She’s seen the best and the worst of the Oilers from her family’s season tickets when she still lived in the Edmonton area. Her favourite Oilers memory was Wayne Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games in 1981.

Asked if she knew of any Panthers fans who could list some of their favourite moments, Cunningham said “no, that would be unheard of.”

The lack of awareness for the NHL allows Cunningham the freedom to wear her best Oilers gear—of which she has a lot—whenever she wants, heckle free.

“No, I don’t get reactions because I honestly don’t think the vast majority of people know even what it is that I’m wearing,” she said.

The consistency for hockey fandom just isn’t the same in Florida, which is why the tickets are accessible during the season. But the burn of the bandwagon is coming to Florida’s ticket prices.

Cunningham looked at tickets for a potential Game 5 in Sunrise, and the prices were already up to more than $500.

Edmonton Oilers fans living in Florida
Cristy Cunningham poses with her sign at an Edmonton Oilers game against the Florida Panthers, proudly claiming her Oil country heritage for the visitors. Photo by Supplied Photo /Cristy Cunningham

‘I feel absolutely no loyalty to the Panthers’

As the Oilers prepare to make their way south, Cunningham said she has no conflict “whatsoever” in cheering for the Oilers. While it’s fun when the Panthers do well because the city gets excited about the sport, she’ll be just as happy to watch the Oilers take the series.

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“I don’t particularly like the Panthers,” began Cunningham, adding “you know, I don’t know how any self-respecting Oilers fan could like (Matthew) Tkachuk.”

“So no, I feel absolutely no loyalty to the Panthers.”

The Edmonton Oilers will be in Sunrise, Fla. for the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at 6 p.m. MDT. While Edmonton rides the high of getting past the Stars, the Panthers have had the Oilers number for the pair of matchups this season, beating the orange and blue twice in the regular season.

Asked what her prediction was for the finals, Cunningham began with “oof” before a long pause on the other end of the phone.

“Oil in six…yep. They win it at home.”

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