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There are generational moments in every Stanley Cup Final that shape and define a series. In the Lightning’s case, it’s Steven Stamkos’s immaculate goal in 2020, or Vinny Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla locking horns in ’04. The list goes on, and most of them are remembered out on the ice. But sometimes, the rare and brilliant moments in puck history go down on the other side of the glass.

That’s what Great Moments in Bolts Fan History is all about. Stories of devotion, drive, a little moxie when it counts. The fans that go the extra mile, sometimes thousands of them all over the world. And our first installment is a master class of the lot.

Rob Webster is a New Tampa native and residing lawyer in South Tampa. He’s been a Bolt For Life season ticket holder since 2016 and a bona fide Lightning fan since Year One, when his mom took him to see Wayne Gretzky and the Kings face the Bolts at the Expo Hall. He’s been in AMALIE Arena for every Lightning Stanley Cup. He once caught a 100-foot, cold-beer long toss from Pat Maroon (dressed as Pat Maroon) (more on this later).

Webster is about as Thunder as Thunder can Be. And yet his Bolts fan magnum opus came in June of 2004, when he and his brother Winston parlayed Marty St. Louis’s 2OT Game 6 winner and a 36-hour Xbox hang into $8 tickets to Game 7. Alex Killorn may have shoved a metal rod in his leg for Cup glory, but Webster brought his joysticks. And on the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, he talks me through his Homeric saga from childhood fan to seasoned Bolt For Life champ.

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Thompson Brandes: It's the 20th anniversary of the epic 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Why don't we make this simple and just start from Game 6. How did you watch that game?

Rob Webster: I went to the University of Tampa. It was summer and everybody was back from college. We were at my parents' house in Tampa, up in Tampa Palms, and we were watching Game 6 there. It started getting late and we started talking about, "Hey, if we get a Game 7 here, if we pull this off somehow, we should try to go get tickets." And back then, they were doing those student rush tickets, which I think they still do. Then, they were $8 apiece. Which is crazy, right? To think about getting into a Stanley Cup Game 7 for $8. It's wild.

The Lightning should have an anniversary throwback night next season where we just do $8 tickets for everybody.

I'm sure the ticket folks would love you for that suggestion.

Yeah. They’ll probably thumbs down that one.

So I said, listen, other people will probably have this idea. If we make it to overtime [of Game 6], let's just get in the car and drive down to, I think it was St. Pete Times Forum then. And we were listening to Dave Mishkin's call in the car when Marty St. Louis scored the Game 6 game-winner.

I was just about to ask, did you have it on the radio?

Oh yeah. We had it on the radio and we were freaking out, man. We were going wild in the car. And by that time, we were almost there because I want to say Game 6 went into double overtime. We were getting close to being downtown, and Marty scores. Dave Mishkin goes crazy. We're going crazy in the car. And we're like, "Hell yeah. We're in it now." So we go down there to get in line for the student rush tickets, and we were the second, third, and fourth people in line.

This is in Thunder Alley? How long was the wait?

It was Thunder Alley, yeah. We just started lining up at the box office basically. And then more employees came out and decided, "Alright, we're cutting this off at 50, we're going to give you wristbands and then you can just wait." So it went overnight. And then by the second night—they let us go at some point—but we stayed overnight because we didn't want to lose our spot.

So at that point, we called a buddy and we’re like, "Hey, we're down here. We're bored. It looks like we're going to be here at least one night, all night. Bring us a TV, an Xbox, and as much extension cord as you can possibly find."

What kind of TV? This is very important because I feel like flat screens weren't invented yet in 2004.

No, no, no. This was not a flat screen. This was ... I couldn't tell you the name brand, but it had a gray or chrome outer. It had that big back that kind of sloped down the back. And it was probably a, I don't know, 32-inch TV or something like that. It was a heavy son of a bitch to get out there. And even then, the Xboxes were thick. But the trick was: it was hard to find a place to plug this stuff in. So we ended up having to go way ... I mean, we almost used the entire 500 feet of extension cord that we were able to piece together before we found an outlet. And so we did that all night.

Do you remember what game you were playing?

Man, I think it was a game called NHL Hitz.

I just did some quick Googling on NHL Hitz. 2003 looks like it was the last one.

Dude, that game is an absolute blast. And you could make your own guy, and we would just have these massive dudes out there. You could check people through the glass and fight whenever you wanted.

Like the NFL Blitz of hockey.

Yes, exactly. NFL Blitz for hockey, and it was awesome. We just played that nonstop…it would probably end up getting me divorced if I start playing that game again.

Did other people waiting in line get in on the gaming?

Yeah! Over time, people started just respecting [each other]…At first it was like, "I don't want to move an inch. I don't want anybody to get in front of me." And then once we got the wristbands from the Lightning folks…then you were good to move around. I think that's why they ended up interviewing us on the news because we had a group of people around us and we're playing video games at five o'clock in the morning.

Is there another moment or story you especially love leading up to Game 7?

I don't know if you remember, but back then, the big tagline around town was, "Lord Stanley needs a tan." And so we made signs while we were waiting in that line. Back then, and this is probably too obscure for you to use, but ABC had the games. The main crew was Gary Thorne and Bill Clement. Bill Clement was kind of like this older white guy, kind of pasty looking, had a mustache.


And so we made this sign…you know how you write ABC down [vertically]. And we were like, "Lord Stanley needs a tan… And so does Bill Clement." And I don't know if it ever made air. We were holding it for the camera guy…but everybody kept asking for pictures with that sign. They came back to it a couple times. So I have no idea if it ever made air or not…but it’s one story that reminds me of that 2004 run.

So you finally arrive at Game 7. What was the atmosphere like in the arena?

It was wild. I'd never experienced anything like that before. And to be honest with you, until the Lightning got good again and started making those runs, I really hadn't experienced anything like it since. But it was just, it was electric. And it was crazy—I remember looking back, seeing highlights now, and people are in suits…not as many jerseys. And now when you go to a game, especially in the playoffs, it's 80% jerseys. So you could tell it was a different era back then.

But I remember everyone still had the Thundersticks. And our backs were up against the wall, the back concrete wall. We were all the way at the top.

I'm familiar with those. Those are good seats.

So good man. You could still see it. But yeah, just electric. And especially I think for Tampa, that was something that we hadn't experienced before.

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You've accomplished the rare feat in that you've been in AMALIE Arena for all three Cups, right?

Yes. I'm proud of that, man.

What's the victory celebration like in 2004 in Tampa compared to the celebration in 2021? They had to be wildly different.

Wildly different. That's so true. I think people in 2004 didn't really know what to do.

Go to the parking lot across the street.

Yeah, exactly. There was nothing to do around the stadium there. I think it was Andreychuk’s [Grille] and then just parking lots. Everybody was super stoked, but at the same time, I don't think people knew what to do with themselves.

And then 2021 was a blast…It was a hockey town at that point. There's a generation of people like me that kind of grew up with the Lightning that had been invested in the team for a few decades now, whereas I think in 2004, it was pretty much new to everybody. You didn't have kids that grew up like I did being fans of the Lightning. So yeah, totally different vibes, but a blast all three times, for sure.

Did you go to the 2004 championship parade?

Yeah, I remember it for sure. I remember it being super hot. But it was a blast because that's the first time I had ever experienced a championship parade. But to be honest, it doesn't really hold a candle to the boat parade.

I was going to ask, city parade or boat parade?

Boat parade, easy. I got a crazy story. I'm going down a rabbit hole a little bit, but in 2021, our buddy and I end up getting a boat. He lives on Davis Island…And so I meet him at his house and we're going to go get in his boat.

I ended up dressing like Patty Maroon. I've got that hat that he wore…a scarf, no shirt, khaki shorts, and sunglasses. So we’re heading down there and the police stop us on this roundabout headed to the docks at Davis Island. Sure enough, it's the team. And they're in those trolleys, those open-air trolleys, and they're all there.


We're driving in a golf cart down there…me and my buddy and his wife. And it's just us three and the officer. That's it. Nobody else is there. And the Lightning players see me and they start going crazy because I'm fully dressed like Patty Maroon. And so they're all yelling at Patty. And they're pointing at me.

And so they kind of slow down. They never make a full stop, but they slow down the trolleys. And dude, we're probably a good hundred feet away. But Patty sees me and he chucks me a beer. And he hummed this thing, man. And it was sky-high in the air—a perfect toss. In my head, I'm like, "You cannot drop this beer. The Lightning players, all their wives, are watching this happen." In the best, most proud athletic feat of my life, I catch the beer. I pop it open and Patty and I end up chugging a beer. He's in the trolley on the side of the road and the guys just go crazy. And I'm like, "Well, that might be as cool as I get from here on out."

That's as cool as it gets for anybody.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.