TAMPA — Lightning fans were heading for the exits with three minutes remaining in Tampa Bay's 4-0 loss to Washington Wednesday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Understandable given the disappointment of not reaching the Stanley Cup final after being so close? Or bad form for a fan base known for its enthusiastic support of its team?
We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for its opinion. Here are its answers:
Martin Fennelly, columnist: Bad form, but understandable. They had their hopes ripped out at the roots. This loss was a blunt object. Still, you can't support your team in only fair weather. Lightning fans need to change that. You're not entitled to anything in this world. Your team just proved that. You just have to keep at it. You know, like they did in Vegas. Never mind.
Roger Mooney, staff writer: They paid a lot of money for those tickets. They can come and go as they please.
Greg Auman, staff writer: Ideally you stay to the finish, sure, but if a fan wants to leave a 3-0 game with 10 minutes left and beat the traffic home, it's certainly their right.
Tom Jones, columnist: Completely understandable. What fan, after 99 games in a season they thought was going end with a Stanley Cup, wants to watch another team celebrate on their ice? Fans didn't want to watch the final thud. Who can blame them?
Frank Pastor, digital sports editor: I get it: You paid a lot for your ticket. You have to be up early for work or school. You don't want to wait in traffic. What I don't get: Swearing your allegiance to a team for 82 regular-season games and three playoff rounds only to abandon it when it needs you most. Turning your backs on the players as they salute you for your support with their sticks. If they can stomach watching another team skate off with the trophy they worked and fought and bled for eight months to try to win, certainly we can bring ourselves to stay to the final horn.
Thomas Bassinger, sports analytics reporter: If you complain about fans of the opposing team invading your arena, you can't leave early. You know your rep, Tampa Bay. Other fan bases say you're fair weather. Like it or not, fleeing a playoff game proves them right. It hurts to watch the other team celebrate, but that's the deal. The players suck it up, and so should you.