If you’re a hockey fan from Florida, there’s no better place to play the sport than your backyard. That said, there is no shortage of great teams in the state either. It’s one of the most prolific places for top-tier hockey talent. There are so many great teams that can be found in the Sunshine State for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it hosts one of the best ice surfaces in the world — right here in South Florida! Accentuate that with abundant natural light and warm climate, and you have an ideal breeding ground for top-notch hockey players. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best hockey teams in Florida:
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been around for longer than many of their contemporaries have been alive. In its 24th season, the team has become synonymous with ice hockey in Florida. Known for its speed and skill on the ice, the Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in five years with a roster that features many of today’s stars. With rising stars like Nikita Kucherov, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirera, and J.T. Brown, the squad should continue to be a force to be reckoned with during the 2018-19 campaign.
The Florida Panthers saw a sea change in its fortunes when it changed ownership in 2011. That year saw the team build a new ice rink and welcome the following ownership group that would make the team one of the most dominant teams in the NHL. The new ownership group delivered on that promise the following year by making the Panthers an instantly recognizable brand across the US. Since then, the team has done nothing but put forth an impressive and dominant effort on the ice. The Panthers have won six division titles and three Stanley Cups and are one of only two teams to win since 1993 that have never missed the playoffs.
The Miami Marlins are perhaps the most recognizable team in all of baseball, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough to compete with the best in the sport. The team is one of few to name a superstar in its two major sports — Major League Baseball and MLB’s National Hockey League. Yes, the Marlins exist primarily as an MLB team, but they also impact the NFL and the NBA. However, their biggest asset is their hockey team. The team is one of the most consistent in all sports. They’ve won a division title in five of the last six seasons and have made the post-season 12 of the last 15 campaigns.
Orlando Solar Bears
After relocating to the US from the now-defunct United Kingdom in 2014, the Orlando Solar Bears became one of the most popular teams in all of the soccer — not least in Florida. And for a good reason: The team is widely known for its skill on the pitch and its unwavering commitment to community service. Since its establishment in 2010, the Solar Bears have won three straight division titles, including a 2016 USASPHL National Championship.
Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Tampa Bay Rowdies are one of the most storied teams in North American soccer. The team traces its origins back to 1970 when it was an expansion team based in Tampa, Florida. Now in its 29th season, the Rowdies have established a reputation as one of the top teams in the league. The Rowdies have seen it all, with a history stretching back more than six decades. The team has captured four consecutive conference titles and has made it to the second round of the US Open Cup three times in the last four years.
Florida Mayhem (OWL)
The new women’sFHByLeague — which is set to launch in 2020 — is certain to bring more than a few teams to Florida. The Mayhem is the only team that’s been around as long as the league. Known for its high-octane, offensive-minded style, the Mayhem don’t skimp on the minutes and intensity on the ice. The team will be led by three goaltenders this season and will feature an all-star-caliber lineup. The team’s success will be determined by whether or not it can stay healthy, limiting the amount of time its top players spend on the ice.
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Hockey is a beautiful game, and with so many options available in Florida, it’s easy to see why so many fans are drawn to the sport. When it comes to the best teams in the Sunshine State, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, each team has its specific draw that can make or break them each season. No guarantee winning one will make you a champion. But if you’re looking for a team with a legitimate chance to win it all, the Sunshine State is where you can find it.