Monday became a perfect opportunity for the Tampa Bay Lightning to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Stanley Cup as John Tortorella, the head coach of the 2003-04 Bolts, just happened to be in town.
With the Vancouver Canucks slated to face the Lightning tonight, Tortorella traveled with his team to Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon following a 4-3 shootout win in Sunrise and had the chance to grab dinner with alumni from the championship-winning team.
"I think it was almost even more rewarding than the Stanley Cup celebration after the game," Tortorella said. "We got to sit down and talk to one another for the first time as a group without anyone else around."
And once the night got going and the stories started to flow, Tortorella learned some things about his team that even 10 years removed, he still didn't know.
"One thing that surprised me," Tortorella laughed, "was that I thought I knew what they were doing on some of the evenings during the season, but some of the stories they told me last night, I didn't know and I thought I had a good handle on it."
The time that has past gave teammates time to come to the realization that Tortorella's tactics were meant to make them better players and people in the end and allowed him to see his coaching career came full circle.
"As a coach that's the first time I was able to hang my hat up and that they understood it," Tortorella said.
Getting his first gig in the NHL with the Lightning in 2001-02 the Bolts missed the playoffs in that campaign. Next season they were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, but their success in 2002-03 still did not give Tortorella or his team any indication that they were on their way to winning a Cup in 2003-04.
"Some of the innocence helped us," he said. "There wasn't any pressure; we were just playing our game."
It also helped turn an area not typically associated with hockey, like Tampa Bay, into a mainstay in the NHL.
"When we won it you could just hear the noise," Tortorella said. "It was definitely a community thing and while it was a non-traditional market, I think that's changed a bit and no one expected that."
With the shared experiences continuing to swirl around the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Lightning's Stanley Cup victory being honored pre-game, the Bolts hope to build off of the energy and continue their push for the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.
"To see up close what it's like to have a special bond like they do, hopefully we can do it here," Steven Stamkos said.
In addition to a pre-game celebration, the Stanley Cup can be viewed on the West Patio from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Alumni will also be available for pictures and autographs on the West Patio and inside the arena at Paradise Cove from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
FROM GOOD TO GREAT
What looked dismal midway through Tampa Bay's home stretch, has turned out to be productive for the Bolts, who picked up points in four straight.
So far, the homestand has been good in Cooper's mind. He wants more, and getting two points would surpass good.
"That could be the difference between good and great," head coach Jon Cooper said.
"That's what you have to do in this league, win home games, especially this time of year," Steven Stamkos said.
Five of their next seven games for the Bolts will be on the road.
With the Cup anniversary celebration in full swing the Bolts are planning on using the extra energy within the building to their advantage.
"Hopefully they can bring some of the winning karma and tradition back," Stamkos said.
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
- Ben Bishop left the ice first during Monday's morning skate and is expected to be between the pipes tonight for the Lightning.