Tampa Bay Lightning Needs More ThunderBug On Game Day

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Tampa Bay Lightning’s game day experience is still pretty amazing, there has been something decidedly missing over the last few seasons.

If you have never had the opportunity to see the Tampa Bay Lightning take on one of their opponents at the Amalie Arena here in the Sunshine State, you are definitely missing an exciting and entertaining experience. There is something for everyone, including kids, at the arena.

Outside on the plaza, which has recently been named Ford Thunder Alley, there is everything from a bouncy playset to an area where kids and take shots, food trucks, live entertainment, and so much more. Occasionally, you’ll have an encounter with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s most recognizable face, ThunderBug.

Despite all the awesomeness that is the average Tampa Bay Lightning game day, there is still something missing from the overall experience. If you are one of the many fans who have experienced game day at the Amalie Arena, there is a good chance you have the same feeling from time to time.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

When we sit and think about it, we really miss the presence of ThunderBug during the game. Now, some of you are going to say, “What in the world are you talking about? ThunderBug is at each and every game.”

In some sense, you are one hundred percent right. Unfortunately, ThunderBug isn’t near as involved in the game day experience as they used to be. In what we like to refer to as the “good old days,” Thunder Bug used to make his way through the stands during play.

Back then, ThunderBug’s presence wasn’t relegated to beating a drum to get the crowd excited. ThunderBug, used to work their way through the crowd, interacting with fans in attendance. ThunderBug would dance, play, and generally make game day a little more fun and lighthearted.

Bug was also incredibly useful when it came to dealing with opposing team’s fans when they got a little too confident for their own good. Who doesn’t love a good, clean heckling every now and then? Unfortunately, the day came when the Lightning’s mascot finally got an answer to the aforementioned question.

Of course, it had to be a Boston Bruins fan. As if there wasn’t enough heat in the hearts of Lightning fans already.

On January 17, 2012, as the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Boston Bruins at the then-named Tampa Bay Times Forum, a game in which the Lightning won 5-2, something happened that would end this version of the game day experience as we knew it.

ThunderBug was having a little fun when Bug decided to silly string a Boston Bruins fan. Rather than take it as the lighthearted joke that it was, the Bruins fan elected to follow ThunderBug up the stairs and aggressively push ThunderBug to the ground.

Initially, the Bruins fan was taken from his seat by the usher as Lightning fans applauded. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, the fan was allowed to return to his seat just a few moments later. To make matters even worse, this was the very last time we would see ThunderBug in the incarnation we were all used to.

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First things first, the Tampa Bay Lightning organization elected to part ways with the actor in the suit, who happened to be female (if that didn’t make assaulting Bug that much more of a douche move,) was relieved of her duties after being with the team since 2009. While the Lightning asserted there was more to her termination than the silly string incident, it seems rather suspect to an outsider.

Obviously, this was a difficult time for the actor in the suit, but it was also a rather upsetting time for Tampa Bay Lightning fans. Many fans took to social media in the hopes of getting the actor her job back. Unfortunately, this never came to pass. At the same time, that fateful night was the last time we saw the fully-interactive version of ThunderBug.

Sure…ThunderBug is still a part of game day. ThunderBug is there before the doors open, he walks the concourse taking pictures with fans, he comes out on the ice during pre-game, intermissions, and post-game, and can occasionally be found beating a Lightning branded drum to get the crowd all pumped up.

No matter how much time passes, there is still a part of us who misses the dancing, board bashing, mischievous, fun-loving ThunderBug of yesteryear.

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While things may never go back to the way they were, we can always hope that our mischievous mascot is given the green light to be a little more interactive on game day. We here at Bolts By The Bay would even volunteer to be one of the first to be silly stringed.