Well before I moved to Florida, my Dad and Mom left Long Island for the west coast of Florida and ended up in Spring Hill which is a hour north of Tampa Bay. Soon after they arrived the Lightning joined the NHL thanks to Phil Esposito getting Japanese investors to spring for some cash. Phil says he kept saying Hockey, hockey but thought they heard Sake, sake. True or not, the Bolts entered the league and Dad started to go to games. It didn't take long for him to become a fan and I still remember him telling me about this little guy who he hoped would make the team out of camp. Martin St. Louis no only made the team but eventually became captain and helped the team win it's only Stanley Cup in 2004. I know, I go out of my way to mention how I was at game seven that year and watched them win right in front of my eyes. I had attended NY Ranger playoff games before but had never been to a Cup final let alone a Stanley Cup Game Seven.
Many Ranger fans who read Hockeybird got upset with me for speaking kindly about the Bolts. I'll say this, they have a fanbase, A Cup and when you go to games it's not filled with fans of opposing teams. If they can do it SO CAN THE PANTHERS!
That said, I'm not sure this is on the same level as a Canadiens - Leafs game or a Ranger - Islander game. But it's up there and getting better.
The Cats keeper Reimer says, "Tampa Bay is obviously a big rivalry and I'm looking forward to being a part of it." He gets the start.
Unlike the old days where players had off season jobs, these guys make some cash. Enough to buy a nice house on the water.
Game preview from the Litter Box Cats.
Did you know you can Uber to tonight's game?
The Bolts also have two good keepers.
"I don't even think the governor knows what the Governor's Cup is," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "There is no rivalry. There's no history. It's amazing."
I'll tell ya this......if these two teams ever face off in the playoffs, the rivalry you seek will be there with intensity.
Beers in the fridge and ready to go. I'll be live tweeting at @hockeyangrybird tonight. Follow along for the mad capped fun!