Back on October 7, 1992, a new NHL franchise that almost never happened took the ice for their first game as an NHL club. The team took on the original-six Chicago Blackhawks in a battle of old vs. new. The newer team won – shocking the NHL veteran Blackhawks by beating them 7-3. That team was the Tampa Bay Lightning, and for a team that’s been on the planet for less time than myself, they’ve made quite a bit of history already. These are what I believe to be the team’s finest historical achievements to date that impacted both the team and the league, and I write this with great anticipation for what they will accomplish next.
5. The Bolts’ First Ever Draft Pick: Roman Hamrlik
Drafted first overall by the Bolts in 1992, Hamrlik dressed for 67 games in his rookie season – scoring six goals and ending with 21 points and 71 penalty minutes. Known for his offensive prowess from the blue line now, Hamrlik began developing that reputation during his time with the team. His second season with Tampa, Hamrlik was responsible for another 21 points. It was his final two seasons with the team that brought the spotlight to the future all-star. In his final two full seasons in Tampa Bay, before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in a five-player deal, Hamrlik scored 28 goals, assisted on 77 others, for a total of 105 points – not a bad two seasons for a 24-year-old defenseman.
Since his time in Tampa Bay, Roman Hamrlik has gone on to become one of the elite blue liners in the league. In 1998, he was one of the top performers for the Czech team, who defeated Russia for the gold medal at the Olympics. He has also played in the 2002 Olympics, the 1996 and 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and the 1994 and 2004 World Championships. He was traded to the New York Islanders in 2000 and was a key figure in the Islanders’ return to the playoffs. He has played in three NHL all-star games and, to-date, has accumulated 1,366 points in 1,311 career games.
4. The First Trip To The Playoffs – Record Attendance.
In the 1995-96 season, which coincidentally enough was Roman Hamrlik’s first all-star season, the Tampa Bay Lightning made their first trip into the post-season. They earned the coveted eighth seed – just beating out the defending Stanley Cup champions at the time, the New Jersey Devils, by a single game. Although the Bolts lost their first-round series in six games to the Philidelphia Flyers, this first playoff experience is what would later help the team overcome adversity and a number of bad seasons that followed. Looking back on this season allowed the team and their fans to know that such an achievement was possible.
Speaking of the fans, they came out in full force for this inaugural playoff run. Tampa’s old arena, the Thunderdome, had an attendance of 28,183 people for the Bolts’ April 23 game against the Flyers, setting an NHL record that would not be broken until the 2003 Heritage Classic.
3. Manon Rheaume: The NHL’s First Lady
Albeit that they were only exhibition games, Manon Rheaume is still the only woman to compete in an NHL game. Rheaume was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. She played in two pre-season games: one against the St. Louis Blues in the ’92 pre-season (in which she is not the goalie on record) and one against the Boston Bruins in the ’93 pre-season. Pardon my language here, but no other NHL team since the Tampa Bay Lightning has had the balls to put a woman on the ice, let alone in goal. Here is a nice piece from the Tampa Bay website on her experience: CLICK
Rheaume went on to win silver with the Canadian Women’s Hockey team at the 1998 Olympic games in Nagano, Japan. She also won gold at the 1992 and 1994 World Championships.
2. The Signing Of Stammer
Before this past season, and after winning their first Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning had regressed back to their struggling ways. But, the one saving grace of finishing at the bottom of the league’s standings is the opportunity to draft to your team the next big potential all-star player. On July 28, 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning used their first-overall draft pick to sign forward Steven Stamkos. He scored his first NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres in his eighth professional game. He ended his rookie season with 46 points.
In his second season, Stamkos proved why he was drafted first-overall, tying Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard trophy with 51 regular season goals. In the 2011 season, Stamkos was the first player to hit the 40-goal mark. This season also had Stamkos making his first All-Star game appearance as well as his first appearance in the playoffs, where he recorded 13 points. He was also named the cover athlete for the popular NHL video game series by Electronic Arts – all of this in only three professional seasons.
There has been a lot of speculation over where Stamkos will play next season, but it will undoubtedly be with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This writer truly believes that a long-term contract will be reached between the parties and once that occurs, Stamkos will settle in as one of the youngest players in the NHL considered to be elite.
1. The Stanley Cup
In 2004, after eliminating the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Philidelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning met the Calgary Flames in their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. The series went the distance, with the Bolts’ beating the Flames 2-1 at home at the St. Pete Times Forum, winning them their first Stanley Cup championship.
This was an incredible year for the Lightning that saw Brad Richards take home the Conn Smythe trophy, coach John Tortorella take home the Jack Adams trophy, and Martin St. Louis take home the Art Ross, Lester B. Pearson, and Hart trophies. This was also legendary player (and captain at the time) Dave Andreychuk’s first and only Stanley Cup after 26 NHL seasons.
A lock-out occured during the next season, and the Bolts’ struggled from then on. But, with the implementation of new general manager Steve Yzerman and multiple changes to the team’s roster and management, things have begun to change. This season ended with an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals – the farthest the Lightning have made it since their Stanley Cup win. Improvement is happening and it’s only a matter of time before we see the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisting the Cup once again.
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