Lightning fans Johnny Grove and Melissa Dehart by Dolly Dolce

The Impact Of Fan Support

You as an individual have an impact on your team whether you like it or not. You, the fan. Me, the fan. All of us, the fan base known as Bolt Nation (and all fan bases). We support and love our team, and they appreciate us and love us back.

I have heard many visiting fans say that they can’t believe the passion and enthusiasm of Tampa Bay fans. They surely don’t see it from the NHL media around the league. I get so sick of hearing the old ‘Tampa has no fans’ cut down. It’s just not true. The Lightning has many fans! Passionate fans, a community like no other.

It’s the little things we do that affect the players in both positive and negative ways. When they lost to Boston in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, they were amazed that so many came to greet them at the airport, event though they didn’t bring back the title. The guys talk about how amazing it is to play at home because the fans are so loud when they cheer. The energy in the Tampa Bay Times Forum and fan enthusiasm fuels them. It encourages them.

Unfortunately the team has not been playing up to the standards of most fans. What seemed to have been an amazing start to the season quickly turned to a downward spiral. They had a winning streak, then a losing streak, and are currently bouncing somewhere in between. The fans have stayed true. They are showing up to the forum and watching at home in huge numbers. At this time last year when they Bolts were going through a rough patch, the feel wasn’t the same in the arena. Fans were divided- some in support and encouragement, and some with anger and a “we pay for tickets and they’re not winning so we have a right to treat them like dirt” attitude.

While people seem to have a better attitude this time around, the negativity is starting up. I admit, I’m frustrated too. Especially after the Boston Bruins game that appeared to have a lack of effort by most of our boys in blue. Negative things were being yelled toward the ice. You would be surprised at what they can hear on out there. Another thing is fans leaving early. This is a major pet peeve of mine.

I’m not talking about the people who usually leave early anyway. They have their reasons. They want to avoid traffic, they have children who have school, they have to get up early for work the next morning, they don’t feel safe out that late at night, they don’t like to drive late… those are perfectly good and understandable reasons. I don’t stay late every night as I have two 10 year olds and a 12 year old myself. I’m talking about the people who will stick around willingly to the end when they are winning, but throw their hands up and leave early, sputtering curses attached to players names as they leave when they aren’t.

When I talked about this last season, I heard quite the backlash from angry readers. I haven’t aggravated people in a while, I figured that it was past due time ;)

“I paid for that ticket and if they are playing like *insert dirty word for fecal matter here* then it’s my right to leave.” Yeah? Well you have the right to be a jerk, but that doesn’t mean that you should. I have the right to remain silent, but that doesn’t mean that I will!! “Well if the team isn’t showing up to play, then why should I show up to watch?” -It’s simple. Don’t! If you are going to have that negative attitude, then maybe it’s better that you just stay home. In the same sense, if the players see the fans giving up, then why shouldn’t they? They look up to see a sea of blue jerseys, hundreds, flooding out of the stands with half of the third period left to be played. Of course they will feel discouraged. Yes, they get paid to play. However, they are also human. Keep the fight up, Bolts, and keep the faith. We, The Thunder, will too.

Dolly Dolce

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