Before I begin touting the virtues of Phil Esposito, I feel it appropriate to give you a bit of insight as to who I am and how I perceive NHL hockey, especially Tampa Bay Lightning hockey. I am new to the Fansided.com (@fanbsided) family. This will be my third post for Bolts By The Bay (@BoltsbytheBay). I am not, however, new to putting my thoughts in text about NHL hockey. It’s true, I’m old enough to slightly remember Bolts GM, Steve Yzerman’s rookie year. It’s also true that I grew to love the game of ice hockey as a (hold onto your fight straps) Washington Capitals fan. It’s common for hockey fans to describe other hockey fans as bandwagoners. I can’t stop any of you from using that term now that I am a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, but I can direct you to my personal blog in an attempt to explain why the only “bandwagon” I believe I’m on is the NHL “bandwagon”.
It won’t be long before my profile here will be available, but for today, keep in mind that I just love hockey. As a lover of hockey, I was pleased and happy to see the news that Phil Esposito will be honored with a bronze statue prior to the New Year’s Eve game in Tampa Bay against the Carolina Hurricanes. Anyone who grew to love the game as a fan of any NHL team in the 60′s, 70′s or 80′s should be intimately familiar with the name “Esposito”.
Considering I was born in 1972, my vague recollection of Phil Esposito on ice was with the New York Rangers (1975-1981). Of course, there is another Esposito to mention as well. Phil’s brother TonyEsposito is a very good example of why I am a vocal advocate and supporter of NHL goalies. My fan memories of the Espositos as players are mostly of Tony’s lengthy stint as a Chicago Blackhawk (1969 – 1984). My memories of Phil are more in terms of his post-retirement activities. Lucky for all of us, those activities are still going strong and are busy writing the history of an NHL legend to this very day.
I remember Phil talking hockey on television in the mid-1990′s. The amount of information I gleaned from listening to Espo could fill volumes I’m sure. In fact, I’m still learning about the game each and every Lightning home game, because I listen to the games via Lightning Radio (a.k.a. Bolts radio @BoltsRadio). When the Bolts play at home, Dave Mishkin is joined by Phil, who adds his perspective as the radio analyst. For me, it is such a great thing to listen to Espo verbalize his thoughts about Lightning hockey. I look forward to home games more and more just so I can hear Phil’s nicknames for the officials, his oft no frills view of how he sees what is good and what is not-so-good about the play of our boys each game and sometimes, I can even visualize the looks on his face just by what’s coming out of his hockey loving mouth. It’s a special treat getting full-on Espo in my ears during home games and I recommend it to every hockey fan, no matter which team you choose as “your team”. I guarantee your appreciation for hockey will grow a little just from the experience.
I believe in hockey in Florida. I support hockey in Florida. I’m doing everything I can think to do to promote hockey in Florida as a hockey fan. My personal goal at this point is to find a way to move to Tampa Bay to not only Be The Thunder in person as a part of the Lightning community, but to be a part of the Tampa Bay community itself. Until I’ve accomplished that goal, I will continue to be an avid hockey fan and student of the game who will be patient during the Bolts struggles and remain dedicated to cheering for the Lightning here and on twitter each and every game, no matter what.
If it weren’t for Phil Esposito (and his brother Tony), the Stanley Cup would never have been hoisted by the 2004 team and hockey in Florida would be in a state likely to reflect what many still believe is a weak hockey market. Those that believe hockey in Florida is a bad idea have every right to their opinion on the subject. Both the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning have had their share of organizational lows and perhaps, even serious issues, but thanks to those NHL insiders who never quit, like Espo, I get to share my love of the game as a Tampa Bay Lightning fan no matter how long some may feel it took me to jump on the supposed “bandwagon”. Considering the circumstances of my life, it truly is better late than never.
I’m sure I speak for many other Bolts fans when I say “You deserve to be honored and we Thunder for you always.” Much appreciation goes to Steve Stuart of Tampa who initiated and followed through with this honor of Espo. To all the people within the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and all those who have been supportive fans over the years, I give all my thanks for making this happen and I hope we all get many more years of Espo.
As for Lightning hockey, it may appear to be a bleak view right now, but what’s important in the grand scheme of things in reality is the next game. That game is the first of a three game home stand tomorrow against the visiting Phildelphia Flyers at 7:30 eastern. Check in with Broad Street Buzz to get insight on all things Flyers related and don’t forget, you can hear Espo tell it like it is during the game by tuning in here at WFLA 970 and don’t forget to tune in about a half hour before the game for all the pre-game goodies too! Go Bolts!
Follow and contact me on Twitter @creasesinger and be sure to follow @BoltsByTheBay to keep up with all the Tampa Bay Lightning fan thoughts. Visit my personal blog Singing From the Crease too! A very safe and happy New Year to you and yours!