It’s getting to be crunch time in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There appear to be anxious fans in Florida and Montreal as the Lightning and Canadiens head to a nerve-racking conclusion to their interesting series (The Rangers and Caps are headed to a Game Seven in their series as well, making for anxious fans in Washington and New York as well).

Montreal and New York are hockey cities with long traditions. Washington has become a popular place for the game as well.

Florida continues to baffle.

Wheather one is a fan of Florida hockey or not, fact is the game goes back longer than you might think.

In fact, though , most think that the Panthers and Lightning marked the start of pro hockey in the Sunshine, its history goes much further back in time.

That early effort, dating back to before World War II, took the form of the Tropical Hockey League.

The league had four teams, all based in Miami, and lasted for only one season, 1938–39, before folding. It was notable as the first attempt to establish professional hockey in Florida or the South in general, though it ultimately had no impact on popularizing the sport in the region.

The league consisted of four teams: the Coral Gables Seminoles, the Miami Clippers, Miami Beach Pirates, and the Havana Tropicals, all of which played at the Metropolitan Ice Palace in Miami. With three exceptions the players were all Canadians recruited from camps in Port Colborne, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba. One notable figure was Mike Goodman, a former member of the Winnipeg Falcons who won the gold medal in hockey for Canada in the 1920 Summer Olympics; he served the Seminoles as player-coach.

The league’s inaugural game, billed as “the first hockey game ever staged in the south”, was played between the Clippers and Pirates on December 10, 1938. It was preceded by demonstrations of the sport by the players and featured a mambo concert after the second period. The game ended with a fight following a 4-3 victory by the Clippers. The Tropical Hockey League made it through a 15-game season in 1938-39. However, it failed to attract much interest from the community due to its late start times, weak competition, and a tendency for games to devolve into fighting, and folded at the end of the season.

There would be no further attempt to establish professional hockey in the region (Southern U.S.) until 1956, when the Eastern Hockey League placed the Charlotte Clippers, later the Charlotte Checkers, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Florida did not get another team hockey team until the Jacksonville Rockets joined the EHL in 1964.

In the 1970’s the World Hockey Association was another chapter in which pro hockey was attempted in Florida

The Miami Screaming Eagles were a charter member of the World Hockey Association and actually signed NHL goaltender Bernie Parent to a lucrative contract. Unfortunately, They never played a game in Florida as they had nowhere for the team to play. The owners sold the franchise rights, and what would have been a Miami team instead took to the ice for the inaugural 1972-73 WHA season as the Philadelphia Blazers before moving on to Vancouver, and then to Calgary, where they finished life as the Cowboys in 1977. South Florida would have to wait twenty-one more years for the Florida Panthers to take the ice and finally give the region a big-league hockey team to call its own.