From Barclay Goodrow playing an impromptu game of pitch and catch with paradegoers tossing a football boat to boat to Yanni Gourde channeling Iggy Pop and running around shirtless in the rain like a madman to Pat Maroon proving once again he's a man of the people (and maybe doesn't have the best grip when wet), I documented the happenings in a running diary for the once-in-a-lifetime event.
Okay, so maybe it was a twice-in-less-than-a-year event (three times if you celebrated with the Buccaneers too).
How did you enjoy the Lightning championship boat parade?
Here's how I spent my day.
9:30 a.m. -- This being my second boat parade in less than a year, I'm a seasoned veteran on how to prepare at this point. Before leaving my house, I liberally apply SPF 50 sunscreen. I wear a hat this time to protect my noggin, which took a beating last year.
Inside my backpack, I store two cell phone backup battery packs. Last year, I ran out of juice about the time the parade hit Armature Works. I was able to get back up and running thanks to a spare iPhone charging cord inside the manager's office at Ricks on the River for the 30 minutes or so we were there but lost power again toward the end of the celebration at Raymond James Stadium. I wasn't going to let that happen again. Surprisingly, this time I only needed a quick power boost as the deluge was hitting Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, but my cell held up otherwise. Trying to get service during the parade was another story.
Also in my backpack are three Gatorades and some coconut water (got to stay hydrated), a regular-size towel, a hand towel in case I want to cover my burning neck, a change of clothes and a pair of flip flops.
Better to be overprepared than under right?
10:14 a.m. - The trolleys bringing the players, coaches and staff from AMALIE Arena to the Davis Island Yacht Club can be seen approaching from a distance, the blaring sirens of their police escort signaling their arrival.
10:20 a.m. - Andrei Vasilevskiy is the first player to emerge from a trolley. He's cradling the Conn Smythe Trophy in his right arm like a running back securing a football as he bursts through the line of scrimmage. The trophy is as tall as Vasilevskiy from the waist up and wider than his frame, yet he carries it with little effort, like it's a five-pound dumbbell.
10:21 a.m. - Barclay Goodrow is in charge of getting the Stanley Cup to the boats, which of course attracts cameras and reporters stationed at the dock, like a flock of seagulls attacking that Tupperware of food you brought in your beach bag
"How does it feel?" he's asked by a local TV reporter
"Feels unbelievable," he replies
"How heavy is it?" the reporter continues
"About 35 pounds."
10:23 a.m. - Goodrow is posing for pictures holding the Cup next to Tampa mayor Jane Castor. Got to think the mayor breathed a huge sigh of relief after the Bolts won the Cup on home ice in Game 5, which was a wish she uttered on camera prior to Game 4 but probably one she wanted back after drawing the ire of many Lightning fans for potentially ticking off the always fickle hockey gods by saying aloud what we were all thinking.
10:30 a.m. - Alex Killorn walks down the dock to his boat wearing a personalized Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey, a #17 with KILLORN on the back. Draped over his right shoulder is a customized WWE Lightning Championship belt that was presented to the team earlier by wrestler and Tampa Bay ambassador Titus O'Neil. Killorn gets my vote for best dressed to the parade.
10:46 a.m. - I'm told I can choose whichever boat I want to get on for the parade. I go all the way to the end of the dock and survey my options. On the last boat, Goodrow is already standing on top of the hard top bimini, posing for pictures with a Bud Light in his hand. "This seems like a good place to set up shop," I think to myself.
10:51 a.m. - Brayden Point is also on the boat. He's wearing camouflage Crocs. This guy is as unassuming as they come for a superstar who just scored 14 goals in back-to-back playoffs to become the first player to lead the NHL for goals in consecutive playoff seasons since Jari Kurri in 1987 and 1988.
10:54 a.m. - And we're off. Over to my right is a boat shuttling Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Luke Schenn. That trio was on a boat the previous year too. Hedman is holding the Stanley Cup over his head and posing for pictures for anybody who wants one.
Video: Stamkos, Hedman hoist the Cup during the boat parade
11:05 a.m. - We enter the Seddon Channel, passing the Harbour Island Lighthouse. I look behind and the boat trailing us has the Prince of Wales Trophy sitting on its bow, like Rose in Titanic. "I'm flying," I can almost here the Prince saying.
11:06 a.m. - A media boat is immediately to our left. Brian Engblom is sprawled out on the front of the boat wearing long white pants like he's on his personal yacht headed to the Catalina Wine Mixer. This obviously isn't his first time on a boat either. He's holding a Bally Sports Sun microphone and talking into a camera doing live hits for Bally's TV broadcast of the parade, water spraying all around him. And I thought I had a cool job.
11:16 a.m. - We pull up alongside a boat chauffeuring Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, Tyler Johnson and Mitchell Stephens. I was on this boat last year, except replace Stephens for Killorn. These guys are already dancing, radio blasting and champagne spraying in our direction. Early frontrunner for top party boat.
11:17 a.m. - Joseph is wearing a Michael Jordan NBA All-Star jersey. I remember the year before he had on a Los Angeles Lakers gold Kobe Bryant jersey. A couple days after this year's parde on Twitter, he explains why: "For anyone who's wondering why did I wear another jersey to the parade this year; I like repping people who I idolized growing up and without them I wouldn't be able to experience moments like that or be where I am today. So Thank you Kobe, Thank you MJ23"
11:19 a.m. - Stephens and Goodrow are in a chugging competition from their respective boats. Goodrow's representing our boat, but if I'm being honest, Stephens got him this round.
11:20 a.m. - Stephens uses his teeth to tear the foil from a champagne bottle, pops it and sprays it on Goodrow, who returns the favor seconds later.
11:26 a.m. - I catch my first glimpse of Yanni Gourde, and he's already shirtless. This would be his permanent look for the day. When you're ripped with zero percent body fat, you can get away with it. Also, if you're a Stanley Cup champion.
11:31 a.m. - We round the corner at American Social toward the Garrison Channel and holy crap there are a lot of boats and people out here.
11:36 a.m. - We turn to the right and are heading straight at American Social. At first I think we're just maneuvering around the heavy traffic, but then I notice we're not really stopping. We're fast approaching docked boats. Just as I'm looking for a possible escape route, Lisa Townsend heads to the bow and begins pushing off the boat to our left, guiding us toward an empty dock. Lisa and her husband Steve Townsend own the boat we're on. Steve is our captain. Somehow, he's able to deftly steer our vessel into the tiny sliver of space to pick up Goodrow's family. He spotted them a couple minutes earlier and asked Steve if he could pick them up. They'll join us for the rest of the parade. As Steve backs the boat up to get back in the procession, all manner of watercraft buzzing around him, I tell him, "I don't envy you right now. That was some incredible steering," He just laughs. You can tell he's a bit stressed but having the time of his life too.
11:37 a.m. - Yanni Gourde is on a boat by himself with just his wife and child and he's still the wildest player at the parade. He opens a champagne bottle and sprays it in our direction. The same relentlessness he uses to hound pucks during the season he's tapped into to celebrate.
11:39 a.m. - Alex Killorn on a jet ski sighting.
Video: Killorn, Kucherov carry Stanley Cup on jet ski
11:42 a.m. - Point and Goodrow are now showering random people in passing boats with champagne.
11:45 a.m. - Goodrow has a football in his hand and is tossing it back and forth with Erik Cernak, stationed on another boat about 30 feet away.
11:46 a.m. - Now Goodrow is throwing the football to people in other boats who have their hands up. Children are his main receiving targets. Imaging being a kid idolizing the Lightning and playing catch on a boat at the championship parade with one of your favorite players? Those are memories that will be cherished forever. That's how you make lifelong fans.
11:48 a.m. - Every now and then, a return pass doesn't quite make it back to Goodrow. No problem, there's about 20 jet skiers or paddleboarders nearby to scoop it up and toss it back.
11:50 a.m. - Killorn has snatched up Nikita Kucherov on his jet ski and the two weave their way through the boats to the adoring masses. They are the true kings of Tampa Bay.
11:56 a.m. - We pass by the massive StarShip Yacht hosting Lightning employees anchored in front of the Tampa Convention Center. My wife Jess is somewhere on this ship. She texts me later and says she saw me, but I couldn't pick her out from the hundreds of employees ringing the deck.
11:58 a.m. - There's so many boats surrounding us right now it's hard to even see water. People are literally reaching over and handing Point and Goodrow pucks, jerseys, hats, anything to get autographed. The players oblige as much as its safe to do so.
11:59 a.m. - Goodrow is now standing on top of the bimini and launching bombs to boats about 35 yards away. About one in five return passes makes it back to Goodrow.
12:25 p.m. - As the boat passes under the Brorein Bridge and passes the beer can tower, we see nothing but massive amounts of people lining the dock and the wall in front of Curtis Hixon Park. There's a giant sign at the end of the wall that reads 'Lightning. Thunder. Reign.' People are sitting on top of the sign, their legs hovering over the 'Lightning'. It was like this for nearly the entirety of the 2.7-mile route from Davis Islands, up the Hillsborough River and past Armature Works until we disembark at Ricks on the River. Who was it that said Tampa Bay doesn't have any fans? People make themselves sound, at best, misinformed and, at worst, like a clown when they say things like this.
1:05 p.m. - A little kid in a boat next to us has something red in a bucket and asks us if we want some. The first couple attempts don't make it to the boat. It looks like Fruit by the Foot maybe. Finally, Goodrow is able to snag one, and it's cut up pieces of watermelon. He hurls a few more in our direction. I snag one, and, not going to lie, random bucket watermelon is pretty dang good on a hot day like today.
1:11 p.m. - Daniel Walcott pulls up on the back of jet ski holding some kind of hockey tape replica of the Stanley Cup. There are messages written all over it I can't quite make out. Not sure how this came to be, but I'm here for it. Walcott was an underrated star of the boat parade. I see the forward at random times throughout the day, always with a giant smile on his face, always looking like he's having the time of his life.
1:14 p.m. - We pull up next to the Stamkos, Hedman, Schenn boat as we're waiting in a line to get off the water at Ricks. Point and Goodrow and their significant others jump from our boat to the other so they can all take pictures. Goodrow almost doesn't make it and is dangling off the side of Stamkos' boat, holding on by his elbows. But we steady him from our side until someone from the other boat is able to drag him in over the side like a fishing net. Crisis averted.
1:20 p.m. - Steven Stamkos' dad Chris is standing on top of their boat with the football and throwing bullets all over the place to anyone who wants a pass. I hold my hands up and make an over-the-shoulder snag to haul one in. I start to toss it back, but the ball's wet and I can't get a great grip. Suddenly, I'm struck with the horrible thought of short-arming a throw back and having my athletic abilities questioned by the guys I cover on a daily basis. I double pump and am able to squeeze the football just enough to deliver a solid strike back. I feel like a king. Chris Stamkos looks like he's never been happier. As I watch him continue to drop dimes all over the place, I'm reminded of his post-victory celebration at AMALIE Arena following Game 5. As some of the players, his son included, went out to center ice to snap some pictures with the Stanley Cup in the wee hours of the morning, Chris Stamkos was skating, nay, flying around the ice surface and firing one-timers at a bucket that was set up in place of the goal with the nets having already been dragged off the ice. I glanced at his feet and he was wearing Nikita Kucherov's #86 skates. The smile on his face was ear to ear. I can't imagine what it must feel like as a father to experience that moment with his son and his son's teammates. Watching him skate, shoot and throw a football, I can see where Steven got his athleticism.
2:25 p.m. - Following a brief pit stop at Ricks and a short trolley ride, we arrive at the Tampa River Center at Julian B. Lane Park. Immediately, everyone heads to the bathroom. The line is 20 deep when I queue up.
2:36 p.m. - The centerpiece at the high-top table where I'm eating is the Prince of Wales Trophy. All we need is to pop the top off and throw some flowers inside to really complete the look.
2:48 p.m. - What was once a beautifully-sunny sky has quickly darkened. There's now a monsoon outside. Winds blow the high-top tables around the outdoor deck of the Tampa River Center on the slick floor. Lightning flickers around. I feel bad for the thousands of fans inside the park, outside in the elements, waiting for the celebration.
3:11 p.m. - After the first storm passes and the rain lets up, the players come out onto the balcony. There's still a ton of fans who stuck around. Some of the players toss beers down.
Video: Lightning lift the Stanley Cup while on stage
3:15 p.m. - Now the players are heading to the stage, and the crowd is going wild. Storms threaten again, but they don't care. Vasilevskiy is bringing the Conn Smythe Trophy. Victor Hedman has the Stanley Cup. Yanni Gourde holds a furniture dolly over his head. I have no idea why, but damn it, he's owning that dolly like it's some kind of precious trophy we don't even know about.
3:17 p.m. - Nikita Kucherov is up on the balcony next to Ellis, the dancing fan who became a breakout star during the playoff run. Ellis is hoisting the WWE Championship belt. He's on cloud nine.
3:50 p.m. - I hear a loud crash nearby, a sound almost like when you drop a bag of ice to try to break it up before dumping the ice in a cooler. I turn around and see it was the Stanley Cup that fell. One of the players tried picking it up off its high-top table and, in the wetness, fell over and dropped it (Pat Maroon later admitted in an interview with hometown radio station 101 ESPN - Sports Talk for St. Louis Wednesday afternoon he was the culprit). I walk over to see if there's any damage, but someone is already ushering it away, a towel draped over the dented bowl. Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois would say a day later the Cup would be out for a couple of days with an "upper-body injury."
4 p.m. - The celebration at the park has been cancelled, the storms continuing to roll in. It's just not safe to continue. That doesn't stop Pat Maroon, however, who bounded down the back stairs at the River Center and is holding court for about a hundred fans who snuck around the back hoping to catch a glimpse of a random player. Of course, Maroon was going to seek out these fans and put on a show for them. He chugs a couple beers for them, and the fans love it.
4:02 p.m. - Wait a minute, so no Big Boi concert? I was really looking forward to hearing "The Way You Move." And "All Night," which was the Lightning win song this season, and was the reception entrance song for my wife and I at our wedding. Where was Big Boi hanging out all this time? I didn't even see him. Stupid afternoon summer storms ruin everything.
4:15 p.m. - Buses have arrived to take us back to AMALIE Arena. As we're driving through downtown Tampa, Maroon stands up, makes his way to the front of the bus, gets on the microphone and asks if we know the words to "Wonderwall." He starts singing acapella and the rest of us join in. Daniel Walcott comes up next, and the two follow up with Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman." As Maroon goes back to his seat, he asks Luke Witkowski if he has the voice of an angel.
4:52 p.m. - Back in my car at the Yacht Club. I'm exhausted. Beaten down by the sun. But satisfied. I'll have memories from these last two boat parades that will stay with me for the rest of my life. This town really knows how to celebrate.