If you’re a true hockey fan, then you already spend most of your year yelling at a tv or, if you’re lucky then, yelling directly at grown men on ice. It’s normal for you to wear an oversized jersey multiple times a week even in the warm months, and you say Russian last names frequently and with ease even though you can’t remember if your co-worker’s name is pronounced Kristin or Kiersten or Kirstin. If you’re just now starting to do those things – welcome to the NHL Playoffs.
Here’s the deal: I’m a die-hard Tampa Bay Lightning fan. Always have been, always will be. I spent most of my life convincing friends to come with me to a game, trying to non-nonchalantly check my play-by-play updates while in social settings, and hearing people exclaim “A hockey fan??? In FLORIDA?! HOW?!”. But it’s about this time of year that suddenly a lot of fans come out of the woodwork. Some people would call them “bandwagoners” or “fair-weather fans”. I just see it as, a pity that these people didn’t get to watch the magic happen all season, but alas, JOIN THE THUNDER.
So, if you’re just joining us this hockey season, here are some things to catch you up to speed and make you a little more comfortable with being a Tampa Bay Lightning fan… Just in time for playoffs. This is just an introductory level, if you’d like more insight feel free to buy me a ticket to join you at a game and class will be in session.
We’ve tied or broken a lot of records and made a lot of history this year. It’s too late for you to get in to the nitty gritty (oh God, GRITTY) but… Just know that this season, and this team, was consistently the strongest team in the NHL across the board. With 62 wins, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the 1995-96 Red Wings for the most wins by a team in the regular season in NHL history. In fact, between wins and game points and individual records – you could argue that this Tampa Bay Lightning team had the best regular-season in NHL history. We nabbed the Presidents’ Trophy crazy early and our Lord and Savior Nikita Kucherov (#86) secured the Art Ross Trophy for league MVP. Both with 128 points.
But it’s not always a morning skate in the park and we’re certainly never boring – They had 29 come-from-behind wins this season, which set a new record. SO DO NOT LEAVE EARLY OR TURN OFF A GAME EARLY.
Our last (and only so far) Stanley Cup win was in the 03-04 season. Lately, we’ve come close. A lot. I’m not going to get in to how we’ve made it so close for so many of the last few years and had so many promising seasons leading to promising playoff runs leading to…. Not a Stanley Cup. But just take my word for it – this team, this fan base, and this organization is ready and overdue to bring Lord Stanley back to the beach.
And because it’s too good of a pun to pass (yes, double pun with pass) up, here’s a Lightning Round:
Need a pre-game playlist? “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, obviously. Whether you like it or not, “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. And for a win? “WIN” by Jay Rock. Then mention how much you love Louis Domingue’s (#70) creative post-win locker room video appearances.
No, fans aren’t booing when you see Nikita Kucherov (#86). It’s actually “KUUUUUUCH”. Same goes for “COOOOOP” when Coach Jon Cooper is announced. However, if it’s a ref thing… They’re probably booing.
Amalie is pronounced like “family”. Big Cat is our starting goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy (#88). Point isn’t just a thing he gets a lot of, it’s also Brayden Point’s (#21) last name. Stammer’s not all you’re gonna do when you see him shoot from his office, Stammer is the nickname for our captain and All-Star, Steven Stamkos (#91).
Lastly, final thoughts bandwagoners: Welcome! The more people that are Tampa Bay Lightning fans and even more than that, falling in love with the game of hockey, the merrier! But if you didn’t stick it out in our tough times – don’t you dare try to talk badly about our boys if we’re only down 1 in the second period. We trust in the work this team has put in and we’re here to root them on towards victory. Now, GO BOLTS and BE THE THUNDER!
Photos courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning Facebook