As the Tampa Bay Lightning and its fans welcome the new ownership of Jeff Vinik this weekend, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the National Hockey League are bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Bay Area this weekend for several appearances throughout the Tampa Bay community. Lightning fans were fortunate to get up close and personal with the Cup after the magical 2003-04 season when the Bolts captured it, winning hockey’s crown jewel after an exciting playoff run that concluded with a Game 7 home victory over the Calgary Flames on June 7, 2004.
This weekend will offer several opportunities for fan photos as the Cup comes to Tampa Bay for Saturday’s home game against the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Hockey Day, a “try hockey for free event” for youngsters to experience ice hockey and learn the basics of the game in a fun, safe environment. Florida Hockey Day events are hosted by USA Hockey, Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers and the Florida Everblades. For additional event information, visit www.floridahockeyday.com.
On Saturday, March 6, the Cup will be present at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, located at 10222 Elizabeth Place in Brandon, from 12-1:30 p.m. and will follow up with a second appearance from 2:30-4 p.m. at the Clearwater Ice Arena. The Clearwater Ice Arena is located at 13940 Icot Boulevard. It will then come to the St. Pete Times Forum for the Lightning’s 7:30 p.m. game against the Atlanta Thrashers. Fans will have several opportunities to see the Cup at the Times Forum, highlighted by a pregame appearance from 5:30-7:15 p.m. on the West Plaza and a postgame appearance in the Shots at Channelside sports bar.
The Stanley Cup will continue its tour through Tampa Bay on Sunday, March 7, with an appearance at the ’96 AAA Tampa Bay Lightning Spring Classic from 9-11 a.m. In addition, it will serve as the centerpiece at the Grand Opening festivities at the Florida Blue Center, an outlet of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, located at 201 West Shore Boulevard in Tampa on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. Fans will be able to win tickets to upcoming Lightning home games and autographed team merchandise. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida is the exclusive health insurance partner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning Girls and Thunderbug will also be at the Florida Blue Center on Saturday from 11-1 p.m. to celebrate the Grand Opening weekend.