We salute the Tampa Bay Lightning saluting its fans, and why Boucher says it does it
I always thought the way the Rangers saluted their fans after home victories was kind of cool, so it was nice to see the Tampa Bay Lightning do the same for its fans after Saturday's season-opening victory over the Thrashers. Coach Guy Boucher said the players will do the same after every home victory. He also was quick to say he was not copying any other team, that he had his minor league teams in Drummondville and Hamilton do the same.
And while there is a selfish reason for the salute; as Boucher said, he wants to create respect with the fans, so the fans, in meaningful moments, will feel a bond with the players and get even louder than usual. But I also thought Boucher bringing up the tough economic times and how the players have to respect the fact that people are paying, sometimes a lot, to watch them play.
In case you missed Sunday's story, Boucher said, "There are all kinds of families here who gather up their money, and they don't have a lot, and they show up for these games. It's real important we recognize the fans that are there for us. It's the relationship I think we have to build."
Nice to see someone involved in big-time professional sports doesn't live in a bubble. My colleague, Tom Jones, who covered the Lightning before I did for the Times, has a great story about a conversation he had with a former Tampa Bay player who was bemoaning the taxes withheld from his paycheck. Jones asked the player how much he thought Jones made as a reporter. The player said $150,000. And that was more than a decade ago. I can tell you, the player overestimated by several times.
The point is, it was good for Boucher to try and strengthen the bond between players and fans. It is particularly important with an organization that had lost its way the past few years, both on the ice and with its relationships with the community.
I always had the feeling, even in the worst times for the Lightning, the Tampa Bay area fans wanted so badly to like this team. All they needed was a reason. The one-ice performance is most important, but helping the fans feel as if they have a personal stake in the franchise can't hurt, either.
Saluting the fans for being there and being loud, as they were against the Thrashers, is a great start.