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More Than A Championship
Editorial/headline taken from Tuesday's editions of the Tampa Tribune:
The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup last night. But the team had a championship season nevertheless. Its great run expanded the Lightning's fan base and bolstered its financial standing, and it generated excitement and pride throughout the community.
Two years ago few could have imagined the Lightning making the playoffs, much less winning the cup. Before last season, Sports Illustrated rated Tampa Bay as the worst of the NHL's 30 teams. Defying the experts, the team went on to win its division. Now the Lightning has proved itself among the best in hockey in one of the quickest turnarounds in league history.
The Lightning's season should quiet critics who claimed the NHL expanded too fast and argued that teams would never survive in the Sunbelt. The two previous Stanley Cup runners-up have been Carolina and Anaheim, further proof that hockey can succeed where the temperature seldom falls below freezing.
The thousands who gathered outside of the Forum to watch Stanley Cup broadcasts for both home and away games reflected the depth of local fans' support. Such devotion is usually reserved for "traditional" American hockey towns like Detroit or in Canada, where the sport is considered the national pastime. It also shows how sports can bring people together in a positive way.
The entire Lightning organization -- especially coach John Tortorella, general manager Jay Feaster and owner Bill Davidson -- deserve credit for this remarkable transformation.
The Lightning fell one game short in the 16-victory Stanley Cup marathon. But its exhilarating season has brought fellowship and joy to our community -- no small accomplishment. Thanks, Lightning. You've made us proud.