January 15, 2011; Raleigh, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center. The Hurricanes defeated the Lightning 6-4. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Time to Be the Thunder Once Again!


Tampa Bay Lightning fans, and hockey fans everywhere, it is time to rejoice! The greatest sport in the world will be back in action in just a few short days!

Tampa Bay Times Forum
Credit: Tasha Meares

As of now, a tentative start date is set for January 19th.

What does that mean, you ask? It means that it is time to put on your face paint, put on your favorite player’s jersey, pull out the air horn, and BE THE THUNDER!

Now, throughout this circus sideshow we have called the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout, we have all had our share of both positive and negative emotions. I know I have.

We have all been through so much in the last few months. From time to time, it has felt like we were the referees standing between two of the most stubborn hockey players in the world throwing their gloves to the ice. There were days that I feel both sides let that little green monster get the best of them, an epic ton of ‘he said,’ ‘they said’ continued throughout this entire process, and there were so many late nights that I fear I have lost count. There have been breakdowns, and breakthroughs. But at the end of the day, even though it was at the 11th hour, they got it done.

I know that so many of you have been disenchanted by this entire process. I have heard many people talk over the course of the lockout about how they were cancelling their season tickets and that they would never attend a hockey game ever again. But let’s stop to think about this for a minute.

How do you walk away from a game that you have loved for so many years, some of us all of our lives?

March 26, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Lightning defeated the Flyers, 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I have been frustrated, even angry throughout this entire process, but I just can’t imagine myself not sitting in the stands and screaming at the top of my lungs when Marty scores his spinning goal, or when Stammer nets his next 60 goal season.

I have loved hockey, and most importantly the Lightning, too hard and for way too long to walk away now.

 

What about the friends that you have made over the course of the last few years?

I don’t know about you, but I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world while attending a Tampa Bay Lightning game. Over the last few years, these ‘hockey friends’ have turned into my ‘hockey family’. Let’s be real here, you don’t just walk away from your family.

How do you punish a team that has done SO much for your community?

I know that a good number of you are still feeling burned. Even some of you who still plan to attend games, but are refusing to spend money on things like refreshments, jerseys, and other such merchandise. But I ask, why punish a team that has invested so much time, and money, into the Tampa Bay community?

Our Captain spends a good amount of time visiting children at All Children’s Hospital; children who are being affected by Pediatric Cancer. He also raises money for them through the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman chaired the 2012 Tampa Bay Heart Walk, which benefited the American Heart Association’s work to to prevent, treat and defeat heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Let’s not forget about our owner, Jeff Vinik. When he bought our team, he invested forty million dollars to renovate the Tampa Bay Times Forum into the magnificent structure that it is today. Through the Lightning Foundation, he invests millions into Tampa Bay area charities through the Lightning Community Heroes Program.

Most importantly, let’s think back to the 2003-2004 season. A season when we showed the entire world that a little team from Florida, where sunshine and beaches were much more prominent than snow and ice, was in fact good enough to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. Again in the 2010-2011 season when we flew past the almighty Pittsburgh Penguins, we swept, yes swept, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, and came within just one game of heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.

What did you feel back then? I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement, and a huge sense of pride in our boys, OUR team.

No matter what animosity or discontent you may be feeling right now; we CAN feel like that again. We WILL feel like that again. You just have to be willing to put that jersey back on, walk through the doors at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and scream like you have never screamed before. It is time for us to Be The Thunder once more.

I don’t know about you, but I will bleed Lightning blue until the day I die.

What they told us last season holds true now more than ever.

We are Tampa Bay. We are the Lightning. BE THE THUNDER.

 

Tags: Tampa Bay Lightning