Lord Stanley's Cup charges up Tampa, Bolts
|The Stanley Cup is brought onto the ice following the Lighting's 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captured the Stanley Cup on Monday, June 7, before a raucous crowd of 22,717 fans at the St. Pete Times Forum to win hockey's largest prize. It was a record crowd for the Forum, which was so loud for the majority of the game that you could not hear a word shouted by the person sitting next to you.
For myself and friends Brett McIntosh, Bill Romberger, Lance Bieker, Rich Bell and Raul Gomez, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event not to be forgotten.
It's hard to put into words the excitement that was in the air, both inside the Forum and outside, where more than 10,000 fans filled the courtyard to watch the game on a big-screen TV, not to mention the fans who watched from nearby sports bars like Newks and Shotz.
If you've been paying attention to the two-month magical ride that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you would know that the team that scored first usually won the game, so you can imagine the roar that erupted when left-wing Ruslan Fedotenko banged home the rebound off a Brad Richards wrist shot for a 1-0 Lightning lead at the 13:31 mark of the first period.
The Lightning would add to its lead at 14:38 of the second period on a beautiful play by Vinnie Lecavelier. Lecavelier somehow held the puck in the corner, three times spinning on a dime to change directions to create space for himself. Lecavelier spun one last time, cut back and somehow kicked the puck to himself, nutmegging the Calgary defender before making a great back pass to Fedotenko in the slot. Fedotenko wristed a laser into the upper-right corner of the goal for his 12th goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 Lightning lead.
The action was back and forth the rest of the way with both teams coming up with quality scoring chances that were turned away by two of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. With a two-goal lead, Lightning fans were feeling pretty giddy until Calgary's Craig Conroy's wrister beat Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to make the score 2-1 with 9:21 to play.
Khabibulin had to be his best down the stretch as Calgary applied tremendous pressure, but the "Bulin Wall" was spectacular in making several game savers.
The Lightning wins the Stanley Cup!
Imagine that. The story lines for this team have no end. Just 12 years ago this same team was playing hockey in a barn at the Tampa Fairgrounds and four years ago was considered the worst team in hockey.
Their best player, Martin St. Louis, went undrafted and was released by the Calgary Flames, while his best friend and current teammate Eric Perrin was thought of so little he had to go to Finland to find a team that wanted him. Both players dreamed of this moment as 12-year-old buddies playing hockey in youth leagues. Now both players are Stanley Cup champions and St. Louis has been recognized as the league's MVP!
Former No. 1 draft pick Vincent Lecavelier and his childhood friend Brad Richards also played together as youngsters in youth and junior hockey leagues and had similar dreams as youth players often do. All Lecavelier did was assist on the game-winning goal in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, while Richards won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Talk about dreams coming true!
Then there's team captain, 40-year-old Dave Andreychuk, who played 22 seasons spanning 1,700 games before finally getting to play in the Stanley Cup finals. Seeing him skate around the ice holding the cup above his head was an unbelievably emotional moment.
Without a doubt, this is the greatest sporting event that I have had the pleasure to attend.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from worst to first two seasons ago - and now the Lightning are on top of the world.
Are the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (14-6 over their last 20 games) the next team to turn the sports world on its collective ears? Don't laugh. That's the same attitude the majority of fans had concerning the Bucs' and Lightning's chances of capturing their sports' holy grail.
Tampa: Title-town, USA.
Whiffle ball returns
The third-annual Island Whiffle Ball League is starting Tuesday, July 6, and continues until Friday, Aug. 6, in three age divisions. Players ages 8-10, 11-13 and 14-17 will compete inside the Center's air-conditioned gym.
You can sign up a team or as an individual at a reasonable cost of $20 per player, which includes a team T-shirt. All teams are guaranteed at least 10 games and a championship tournament.
Ongoing at the Center is indoor (cool air) hockey and Ultimate Frisbee.
For more information on Center programs, call 778-1908, or stop by the Center to sign up.
Skimboard contest set for August
The third-annual EZ Skimmers Back-to-School Skimboarding Contest is now accepting applications for the extremely popular event, which will take place Aug. 21-22 at the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach.
If you haven't had the pleasure of attending, you're missing out on some serious watersport excitement. Last year the contest drew more than 125 contestants, creating a fantastic atmosphere with good boarding by skimmers of all ages - male and female - along with some interesting commentary, good music and a nice beach view.
Cost for the contest is $25 for an amateur and $75 for professional boarders, with each contestant receiving an EZ Skimmers T-shirt and a grab-bag filled with skimboarding essentials. Age groups range from the Minis (8 and under) up to the Masters (25 and up) in male/female divisions.
EZ Skimmers is also looking for sponsors for the two-day event which already boasts the Beach House, West Coast Surf Shop, ZAP Skimmers, Native Rentals, Fun & Sun Parasail, Sticky Bumps, Block Surf, Skim East, Australian Gold, Oakley, NXTC Surfboards, Timesaver Convenience Store, Skinny's, Dakine, Skim USA and The Islander as sponsors.
Get on board for the most exciting event of the summer!
Registration forms may be obtained at West Coast Surf Shop, 3902 Gulf Drive, or The Islander office, 5404 Marina Drive, both in Holmes Beach. Completed forms and the entry fee should be mailed or delivered to the Beach House Restaurant, P.O. Box 1478, Anna Maria FL 34216. Checks should be made payable to the Beach House.
For more information, call West Coast Surf Shop at 778-1001.