Respect. It all boils down to respect. Why doesn’t the Lightning gain the respect that they deserve? Fan base and location aside, let’s look at the facts. Picture these facts with a team built in, let’s say, southern Canada or northern America near the border somewhere in the middle. A great NHL legend decides to start a hockey club. This man is a well respected hall of famer who had many seasons of glory with an original six team. Phil Esposito birthed the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the span of 18 seasons he played with the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks. He was inducted in the hall of fame in 1984. He earned too many awards and trophies to list here.
The expended team sets records for numbers in attendance that still stand 20 years later. Like every team, they have their ups and downs, but have seen the playoffs several times and nurture All Stars. This team won a Stanley Cup. The captain of the championship team is hall of fame worthy and has a record for most power play goals that still holds strong over ten years after. (Dave Andreychuk) They’ve seen their share of NHL trophies including the Lady Bing, the Hart Memorial, and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard. One of their players was the Rocket twice and is currently in a battle to lead the league in goals again. Their current general manager is a hall of famer, one of the most respected men to ever skate. (Steve Yzerman) Taking all of these things into account, that team would surely be respected.
As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I have received my share of harassment, teasing, and even hostility. It’s a fact that a good number of northern teams fans, especially of the Original Six, really don’t like us. We’ve all heard the common ‘Tampa Bay doesn’t have many fans’ line. That’s getting really old. Their fans have said many horrible things about the team like it can’t be a real hockey team because it doesn’t get cold enough to snow here, it’s hard to take a team seriously when the players spend all of their time at the beach, and Tampa’s only fans are bandwagoners, puck bunnies, and the elderly. While the Lightning fan base does consist of all three of those, there is a good eclectic mix of people who cheer for our boys in Bolt Blue. It’s the same story with the Florida Panthers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and any of the teams who aren’t on the big market.
While a large chunk of NHL fans despise the Lightning, many Tampa fans feel like the organization is hated by the league and especially the referees. They cry ‘bias’ calls. Though I’m often frustrated with the officiating myself, this is a league-wide problem. A good number of refs appear to be one sided during a game. They look the other way with some penalties and get whistle happy with others. In reality, fans from every team in every sport accuse refs of the same thing. That they are bias, or that they are getting paid to allow a team to win. There are certain referees who do tend to stick it to Tampa more, or so it would seem.
I have noticed some teams being favored more by the media than others. The big teams focused on are teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals, the Detroit Redwings. The Chicago Blackhawks are earning a lot of air time, and rightfully so. There are 30 teams in the league. Not 4. How many players can you name on the Dallas Stars? Who is their coach? You never hear about them. I think that they have it worse than we do. We hear a lot about the Florida Panthers because they are our biggest opponent, being here in Florida with us. however they aren’t popular in the NHL networking word, ether.
Many fans feel that certain networks are bias against Tampa Bay. When I turn on the NHL Network, it’s all about Sidney Crosby. Steven Stamkos keeps stealing the point lead from him, however, they talk about Crosby Crosby Crosby. It’s ridiculous. During game broadcasts they’ll often refer to him or compare a player to him. We get used to watching Lightning games on Sun Sports where it’s local so of course they’re going to talk favorably about them. I think that we get spoiled by Rick Peckham and Bobby “The Cheif” Taylor. The game intermissions with Paul Kennedy, Chris Dingman, and Dave Adreychuk talk about the Lightning and recapping the period. They’re show isn’t full of Sidney Crosby, that’s for sure! I think that we get ueed to seeing our local programming, so when it’s aired nationally, it seems off to us. When I take a step back and look at the games that are aired on NHL Network, it is pretty evenly covered. I admit that I don’t like it when they show Lightning games on NBC Sports. I can’t stand Pierre McGuire. I also don’t personally care for Mike Millbury or the other hockey personalities on that station. They speak in favor of the opposing team a lot of the time. Take the game last season when the Philadelphia Flyers held onto the puck and refused to play it as a scheme to avoid the 1-3-1 defensive system. Those morons blamed Tampa and “guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 trap” and said how it’s wrong and shouldn’t be allowed to play it. I don’t care if your station is owned by the same people who own the Flyers. You have to be fair. Guy Boucher did not invent the 1-3-1. It has been used long before Tampa played it. Ironically I have seen the Flyers use it this season on more than one occasion, including when they played against Tampa.
I don’t feel that the Lightning is hated by NHL officials. I do feel that there are certain individuals who don’t care for them, as everyone has that one team they just can’t stand. I also feel that we, as Tampa Bay fans, get spit on around the league by other fan bases. In order to gain complete respect they will need to play hard, win championships, and be consistent.