The National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning played their first game 7 October 1992 against the Chicago Black Hawks. The new franchise trounced the original six team by a score of 7-3 with Chris Kontos scoring the team’s first goal and adding three more to set a team record of four goals that still stands today.
The team has experienced a roller coaster ride of successes since that first game, varying from a hard working team that couldn’t be taken for granted to Stanley Cup champions and league cellar dwelling team. This is not an easy way to build a strong and loyal fan base.
The franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup came in the 2003-04 season when they defeated the Calgary Flames in seven games in the finals. Brad Richards was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff’s most valuable player.
Notable players that have donned the Lightning’s jersey include Denis Savard, Wendell Young, Brian Bradley, Roman Hamrlik, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Gratton, John Cullen, Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin St. Louis, Fredrik Modin, Brad Richards, Ruslan Fedotenko, Dave Andreychuk, Vincent Lacavalier, Dan Boyle, Vaclav Prospal, Daymond Langkow, Rob Zamuner and Tim Taylor.
Awards won by the team include: the Stanley Cup and Prince of Wales Trophies in 2003-04; the Art Ross Trophy by Martin St. Louis in 2003-04; the Conn Smythe Trophy by Brad Richards in 2003-04; the Lester B. Pearson Award by Martin St. Louis in 2003-04; the Bill Masterton Trophy by John Cullen in 1998-99; the Hart Memorial Trophy by Martin St. Louis in 2003-04; the Lady Byng Trophy by Brad Richards in 2003-04; the Rocket Richard Trophy by Vincent Lacavalier in 2006-07; and the Jack Adams Award by John Tortorella in 2003-04.
The team currently sits at the bottom of the NHL showing inconsistencies on the ice that do not show up on paper. Tirades by coach John Tortorella take away from the focus of the team and don’t help at all and, conceivably, the team doesn’t play at the level of which they are capable.
The future should be bright with stars such as Lacavalier, St. Louis, Boyle and future prospects like Shane O’Brien and Paul Ranger, but goaltending is a huge question mark. Many wonder if the recently acquired Mike Smith can provide the level of play needed to carry a team to a championship.