Having seen all that D.C. had to offer, I boarded a flight Tuesday afternoon and headed off to Tampa to catch up with the team.
I was eager to spend time in a more hospitable climate - a place where, unlike in Philly and D.C., the top athletes of each generation come together to hone their skills and become the champions they were meant to be.
To my surprise, it appeared EVERYONE in South Florida hailed from either New York or New Jersey, like the elevator operator at Amelie Arena, and the Uber driver who took me back to my hotel after the game. George Steinbrenner was an early investor and limited partner, and even Lightning founder Phil Esposito spent the last 6 seasons of his playing career in New York.
The Lightning have an impressive statue of Dave Andreychuk hoisting the Stanley Cup in front of the "Thunder Alley" plaza/entrance to their arena. Seemed odd to me that a team would erect a statue to the founder of their franchise...
Not many fans took pictures in front of the statue, or at least stopped to look at it. But after spending a few moments in "Thunder Alley," I began to see why nobody would want to linger too long.
Once inside, I was immediately struck by the size of the jumbotron. The thing was literally so big, I hit my head on it as soon as I got out of the car. Simply massive.
It's also got incredible resolution, which made watching Drouin pinpoint a shot past Budaj incredibly painful. Plus, it made watching the Kiss Cam awkward in ways I never thought possible.
Piggy backing off the "Lion King" cam in Philly, the Lightning's "Small Fry" sponsored crowd segment was another genius excuse for parents to endanger their small children's safety for the chance at being on a gigantic TV screen for two seconds.
I never got a chance to catch them on video, but the Tesla coils the Lightning have hanging in their arena should be widely considered the coolest prop in sports. The entire game presentation was incredibly "on theme" and well done.
While the Tampa faithful were out in full force - and impressively organized in their songs, chants and jeers - LA did not go unrepresented.
There was even a Burger King jersey!
I wish I could spend most of these updates talking about Kings goals or spectacular plays. Sadly, the Kings have been shutout in consecutive games, while being outscored 10-0. So I'm left wishing there was some photo that perfectly captured how Kings fans are feeling today.