"The Lightning have done it!"



The Tampa Bay Lightning have one their first Stanley Cup My love for hockey began not too long ago. Late during the 2002-2003 season, I attended my first National Hockey League game. The Tampa Bay Lightning were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bolts absolutely destroyed the Penguins, defeating them 10-1. After the game, I looked up anything and everything about hockey and became an expert, particularly about the Bolts. And so it began.

The 2003-2004 season was phenomenal. Even though I had classes in Gainesville and the Lightning play in St. Pete, I made the trek to south Florida for every home game I could. When I couldn't be there, I watched glued to my television. I watched my boys in black lead their conference for basically the entire season. They finished the regular season as division and conference leaders and headed to the playoffs.

They finished off the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens in short order. Only the Philadelphia Flyers took them to seven games after trading wins for the duration of the series. I was at Game 7 when the Bolts won the Eastern Conference title and I thought it couldn't get any better. I was wrong.

Vincent Lecavalier hoists the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup Final series proved to be incredibly stressful. As they had with the Flyers, the Bolts traded wins, but this time they started out losing. They lost Game 1, won Game 2, lost Game 3, won Game 4, lost Game 5, and won Game 6. The Bolts were just 60 minutes away from the Stanley Cup and were set to play Game 7 at home in the St. Pete Times Forum. I had to be there.

I camped outside of the Forum for three days to get tickets. It was summer in south Florida and hot. Sweltering is a better word. But I stuck it out along with 99 other people and we got our tickets. They weren't good seats but that hardly mattered. I was going to the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The game was electric. More than 20,000 people packed the Forum and roared their support for the Lightning. The building seemed to vibrate with enthusiasm. Every one of those 20,000 people held their breath for most of the game. I was literally on the edge of my seat. Late in the third period the Lightning lead 2-1. As the final minute ticked off the clock, the crowd went absolutely berserk. I screamed until my throat hurt and then I screamed some more. It was one of the most exciting moments I've ever experienced.

Let's see if the Bolts can pull it off again this year...