Canadian residents barred 24 hours from buying tickets for Leafs games in Florida, Panthers say

Toronto Maple Leafs fans planning to attend the team's road games in the upcoming second-round NHL playoff series against Florida may find themselves with limited ticket options.

Locals given 1st access on Monday for Games 3 and 4 of 2nd-round playoff series

Maple Leafs fans cheer on their team during a road game.
There may not be many fans in Florida wearing Maple Leafs jerseys during the team's upcoming second-round playoff series since the Panthers are restricting ticket sales for Games 3 and 4 to U.S. residents for 24 hours. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Toronto Maple Leafs fans planning to attend the team's road games in the upcoming second-round NHL playoff series against Florida may find themselves with limited ticket options.

The Panthers have restricted early sales for Games 3 and 4 to American residents.

A team spokesperson told CBC News via email that U.S. residents would be given first access to tickets for 24 hours, starting Monday morning.

"Anyone can purchase tickets on the secondary markets today," said Adelyn Biedenbach, the Panthers' vice-president of communications.

WATCH | Initial ticket sales for Leafs-Panthers restrict to U.S residents only:

Canadian Leafs fans frozen out of NHL playoff tickets for Florida games

5 months ago
Duration 2:00
Ticketmaster has restricted ticket sales for the Toronto Maples Leafs vs. Florida Panthers NHL playoff series to U.S. residents only for the first 24 hours, preventing many Canadian fans from buying tickets when they first go on sale. They can, however, get tickets at highly inflated prices on the resale market.

The Maple Leafs have a fan base that travels well, particularly in the Snowbird-heavy Sunshine State.

News of restrictions led many fans to believe it was an effort to limit the number of Leafs supporters and maximize home-ice advantage. Under an 'Important Event Info' listing on the Ticketmaster website linked to the Panthers' site, a tab outlined sales requirements.

"FLA Live Arena is located in Sunrise, Florida. Sales to this event will be restricted to residents of the United States. Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside of the United States will be cancelled without notice and refunds given," it read.

More specifics were added to the tab later in the day.

"The pre-sale will end on May 2, 2023 at 11 a.m. Resale tickets are available for all buyers."

Dates for the Florida home games — which would include Game 6 if the best-of-seven series lasts that long — have not been announced.

WATCH | Tavares scores for Leafs in OT to eliminate Lightning:

Tavares' overtime winner against Lightning in Game 6 advances Maple Leafs to 2nd round

5 months ago
Duration 1:42
Toronto's John Tavares scored the series winning overtime goal against Tampa Bay Saturday night giving the Maple Leafs a 2-1 win, and a 4-2 series victory.

Tickets in the upper reaches of the arena were available early Monday afternoon at about $320 US each, according to the SeatGeek ticketing platform website.

Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena and will be lived streamed at at 7 p.m. ET. Game 2 will be played Thursday in Toronto before the series shifts to Florida.

The Edmonton Oilers, the other Canadian NHL team remaining in the post-season, were set to begin their second-round series Wednesday in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.

No restrictions appeared to be in place on Canadian ticket purchases for games at T-Mobile Arena.

Panthers have 'people believing'

Vincent Viola has a problem. It's a good problem.

Viola is one of the owners of Forte, the presumed favourite for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. He also owns the Panthers, who just knocked Boston, the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. And this weekend, with racing and hockey on his calendar, Viola might need to be in two places at once.

It beats the alternative. For the first time, the Panthers have reached the NHL's second round in back-to-back years. The dark days for the franchise are gone, and Viola feels like the team is getting closer on making good on its promise to bring a Stanley Cup to South Florida.

"We feel that we got through some pretty tough roller-coaster years. It means an awful lot," he told The Associated Press on Monday. "And it means an awful lot because I see the confidence reflected in the fan base. I truly feel that the fan base truly believes in a way, quite frankly, that was not warranted in the past.

"They gave us a lot of confidence and a lot of support on credit. They kind of surrendered it to us on credit, and it took us a while to earn it. Now I feel we have an organization that they can be proud of."

The Panthers, for years, made winning seem impossible. Last year's first-round series win over Washington was the franchise's first playoff triumph since 1996. A second-round meeting with Toronto awaits Florida now; the winner will be going to the conference finals for the first time in a generation. Florida got there most recently in that 1996 run, Toronto in 2002.

"We have people believing in this team," Viola said.

Sunday's victory further validated two big moves the Panthers made last summer.

One of those was trading Jonathan Huberdeau, then the franchise's all-time scoring leader, to Calgary as part of a package that brought Matthew Tkachuk to Florida. Tkachuk had 109 points and 123 penalty minutes this season; the last person to have 100 in each of those categories was Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in 2006.

Florida nearly balked at making the deal, simply because they thought so highly of Huberdeau. Viola called it "heartbreaking," but added that the team's ownership group, including his sons, and front office "had to think with our head, not our heart."

"We were really blessed by good fortune when we brought on a true champion in Matthew Tkachuk," Viola said. "A definitional player. You could call him a unicorn, you can call him a generational talent, call him what you want. He just is the quintessential modern hockey player leader. And his relationship with Aleksander Barkov, it's like one and one makes four. That was good fortune."

The other big change last summer was hiring head coach Paul Maurice, another tough decision for Florida to make, especially after then-interim coach Andrew Brunette led the Panthers to the NHL's best regular-season record a year ago.

"Paul Maurice was not given, let's say, a long leash by the fans," Viola said. "I think his job is worthy of consideration right up there with the best coaches in the league for the job he's done."

With files from CBC Sports and Tim Reynolds, Associated Press

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