Mar. 6, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning players and fans celebrate after a scored goal during the second period against the Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Ottawa Senators defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

"Small But Tight-Knit Following" = The Thunder?

As Tampa Bay Lightning fans, we are often looked down upon. I’ve heard many people say that Florida teams are the red-headed step child of the NHL. I’ve heard things like “Tampa Bay didn’t make it into the playoffs this year. All 73 of their fans will be upset.” Boston even compared us to Bigfoot as he is rare, so are we. (On a side note, I totally believe in Bigfoot.) I used to let this anger me, but now I just let it slide off my back, along with all of the other Tampa Bay fan insults. So we freeze in the ice rink and can walk outside and warm up, so what? Does that make us any less of a hockey fan? Does it discredit us in the hockey world because we can’t skate on a pond outside? If anything, I think this makes us tougher, stronger. We have to work harder to keep the hockey environment down here. It’s not easy wearing a full jersey or ‘hockey sweater’ in 98 degree heat. But we do it anyway. Mostly because we get discounts at the forum as season ticket members, maybe other arenas fans are just jealous. But that’s for another article.

I came across this article from Bleacher Report today, and they ranked Tampa’s fan base 21 out of the 30. I’m surprised that we were 9 up the ladder! Here is what they had to say:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the other team in the state of Florida and they have had more success than the Panthers. The Bolts won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 and have had on and off success since that point.

Tampa Bay has a small but tight-knit following and they ranked 21st in home attendance during the 2011-12 season. With a balanced team and a new direction, Tampa’s fan base will continue to grow the next few seasons.

We may not have as wide of fan base as Detroit or Toronto, but we do have a lot of fans.I know fans from not only around the country, but around the world. A friend flew over from England last season to see the Bolts play. It was accurate in saying that we are tight knit. I have met life long friends through the Tampa Bay Lightning fan base. I even met my husband, Joe Dolce, through our passion for the team. Not only on Facebook and Twitter, but we meet wonderful people at every home game who are passionate about hockey and love the Lightning just as much as we do.

The players have talked about the energy that they feel at home games, how the fans electrify them and build them up. Other teams players have noted the same thing, how amazing Tampa fans are. I even talked to a couple who was visiting from Canada and came to a Vancouver game who said that they were genuinely surprised by the out pour of enthusiasm from the Tampa Bay fans. They said that they were enjoying themselves and didn’t think that they would enjoy being down here, as they thought it would be a ‘dry hockey game environment with out a lot of energy’ and that it would be boring. I’m happy that we surprised them. The thousands of people who showed up when the Lightning came back from Boston from the Eastern Conference Finals game 7 and stood in the heat to greet the team as they came home defeated should tell you something right there.

The bottom line is that Tampa does have fans. Plenty of them. Lots of fans who are close knit and are full of passion for our team. Don’t believe me? Come down here in a Boston jersey. (Just don’t assault our mascot if you do, please.)

@HulaDolly @FanSided @BoltsByTheBay

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