TAMPA, FLA. — It’s been an exciting time to be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, with fans still riding high from back-to-back championship seasons. Loyal fans and local businesses weighed in on how they plan to keep the excitement going into a new season.
“I’ve been following the Lightning since beginning to end, to ups and downs, the good years, the bad years, the so-so years,” said Andrew Miller.
Miller, a part of the Sticks of Fire fan group, has been following the Lightning since Game 1 in 1992, and he explained why cheering on the reigning champs will never get old.
“These last two years, it’s been a wild ride,” said Miller. “I don’t want to jinx it and say what could possibly happen this next year, but it’s really exciting.”
From the stands to the gear on fans’ backs, local businesses are also preparing for what’s ahead. Smack Apparel in Tampa is keeping busy, saying local support has been fantastic.
“With the Lightning, that was one of the biggest spikes we’ve had in years, specifically with COVID happening last year, that really slowed us down a bit, but these have really been a boon for our business, seeing just the community outreach,” said Russell Scott with Smack Apparel.
The Smack Apparel team is hard at work, preparing for what fans hope is a third straight season lifting the Stanley Cup.
“Our ‘Back to Boat’ shirt was one of our bigger ones for the first win, and for the second win, it was mostly the Kucherov themed stuff. It really kind of hit a nerve with the fan base,” said Scott. “It’s not easy coming up with big hits: a lot of it, sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s timing.”
“The last two seasons, you couldn’t have drawn up a fairytale ending better than the way it is,” said David Mangione, general manager of Hattricks Tavern in Tampa.
Businesses near Amalie Arena are no stranger to what a winning season means. Mangione described the electric atmosphere during a game and how fans turn out to local businesses while supporting the team.
“We’re in our 25th year, and the Lightning have been here the whole time we’ve been open, so we think we’ve become synonymous with fans coming to the games and knowing that Hattricks is going to be here,” said Mangione.
With another season kicking off Tuesday night, fans and local businesses hope lightning strikes not once, not twice, but three times for Tampa Bay.
“It’ll never get exhausting to cheer on a championship team,” said Miller. “Whether it’s the Lightning, the Bucs, whatever team I’m rooting for. Win or lose, I’m still going to root for them.”