If my flight doesn’t get delayed anymore, I’ll probably be in a St. Pete watering hole catching the conclusion of Game 6.
I’m going to be glued to my iPad on the plane watching the Lightning preventing an early end to the season so I can be part of something special: Game 7 in Tampa for the Stanley Cup.
I don’t want a touchdown at PIE to lead to a letdown when I hit the road to find the nearest TV. Hell, that just mean going over to the Clearwater Ice Arena just to see the end of the game.
Tampa Bay doesn’t deserve disappointment on the national stage. The city and region, frankly have been resilient over the last six years, watching home values finally climb back after a nasty housing collapse. Seeing hope being built from Channelside, north to a new ice rink complex in Wesley Chapel, bustling retail and amateur sports boom in Sarasota to the south and craft beer breweries bubbling up in every neighborhood in between.
Tampa didn’t arrive in 2004. Metaphorically, that championship crowned a race to the top by everyone chasing the dollar before the party came crashing down hard. It’s appropriate that the lockout wiped away the following season. And it only got worse in terms of diminishing results for the Lightning to a point where new ownership came in to make it seemed like Florida Man was running the team’s news ticker.
Now, you have everything in place that makes Tampa an exciting hockey market, place to live and work with hopefully a fully realized arena district.
I owe it to the Lightning for making hockey exciting for me again. When I moved away from Maryland, my frustration with the Caps were at an all-time high. I watched a Lightning team in transition that reminded me a lot of the Caps when Glen Hanlon was writing his own pink slip as George McPhee stocked the organization with enough talent to win two Calder Cups in Hershey in short time thanks to an up-and-coming coach who could coach goals to pour out of his roster.
Guy Boucher was in a similar position with a defensive system that also grew old and in came Calder Cup prospects and eventually Jon Cooper. The key difference is that Cooper quickly learned he needed defensive adjustments and having a veteran of an associate coach like Rick Bowness sped up that learning curve as well as having guys from Andreychuck to Yzerman supporting the organization.
I don’t have tickets for Game 7, nor could I afford them. Would I do anything to get in Amalie Arena for free? Of course but being in the streets of Tampa to celebrate, to be in the moment is all I’m asking for.
Thats all we should ever want, too:
Be in the moment. Be in the clouds.
Be the thunder.