There’s a place where ice hockey thrives in the sun, a frozen pond surrounded by palms trees. Every cold breath can be seen seeping from the roaring crowds, leaving a dissipating mist on the surrounding glass. Eighteen thousand fans- maybe more- wait anxiously as both teams take to the ice in anticipation for the puck to drop. Verbal bitterness is exchanged in the stands, concession lines and bathrooms. Fans take sides with jerseys and other indicators of loyalty. On the inside of the concert igloo better known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum, NHL fans come together and celebrate a sport that seems rather ironic in a tropical beachside environment.
Outside, the air is humid and salty and the temperature never dips below 70 degrees; ice wouldn’t stand a chance. But there is nothing about the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise that shows any signs of melting away. So what’s keeping this team alive in spite of breaking the rules of regional boundaries?
The 2003-2004 season brought the Lightning their first Stanley Cup hoist, proving a major upset in the Canadian-driven game. An unlikely victory, the win revealed there was a team below the Mason-Dixon Line with extraordinary talent, one that needed to be taken seriously. The most recent confirmation came with a trip to the 2010-2011 playoffs, defeating the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins and sweeping the Washington Capitals.
The players and fans were welcomed to a completely renovated rink for the 2011-2012 season, boosting morale even further. New features include an 11,000-square-foot outdoor deck perched on the 3rd floor above the plaza and a theater-style pipe organ to create that old-time hockey ambience. The most impressive new feature is the lightning bolt generator that strikes near the scoreboard.
The flock of snowbirds in the winter season often segregates and congests the town, but the Forum never falls short of filling seats and producing much-needed economic relief, even if it may be with the opposing teams’ fans.
Either way, these people love their sport. They show pride, take pride and feel pride in their team. Whether it’s for the entertainment, the chance to feel connected to something monumental or just to take in the comfort of the cold for an hour, ice hockey in the sunshine state serves as an escape for the Tampa Bay Lightning fans.
If you love bread pudding, you will love this Bahamian version.
A tart & creamy combination.
A sweet, Christmas treat.