Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

First Lightning coach Terry Crisp remembers first playoff run

Funny what sticks. For Terry Crisp, mulling over his five-plus seasons as the Lightning's first coach, it is a loss.

It was April 27, 1996, and Tampa Bay had just been eliminated by the Flyers 6-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. But as Crisp walked across the ice, he stopped to marvel at the ThunderDome crowd of 27,189.

"I don't remember who was walking with me," Crisp recalled. "I said, 'Let's stop and soak this in. Let's do a 360 here.' The fans were still standing, still cheering. The team was knocked out, but they were respectful of what it accomplished."

Much of that was because of Crisp, who molded a fairly ragtag squad — "A bunch of guys other teams didn't want," he said — into the 4-year-old organization's first playoff team, which played at what now is called Tropicana Field.

"It was easy. They all fit together," he said of the players. "They all knew their roles, and they worked."

It was, said Crisp, 69 — who won Stanley Cups as a center in 1974 and '75 with the Flyers and in 1989 as coach of the Flames — one of his most satisfying seasons because as a young expansion franchise, "We weren't supposed to be there."

Crisp, fired 11 games into the 1997-98 season, is in his 16th season as a TV and radio analyst for the Predators. But the recollections from that Lightning playoff season still came easily.

Crisp said he loved the grit and leadership of players such as Brian Bradley, Rob Zamuner, John Tucker and Bill Holder. He talked about defenseman Roman Hamrlik and his big shot and how "unreal" penalty killing (fifth in the NHL at 84.5 percent) was so important.

And if goalie Daren Puppa had not been lost to injury against the Flyers, "We could have taken them to the wall," Crisp said.

"That was the proudest thing with those guys," he said. "We got the respect of the league in a hurry with guys who worked hard and wanted to do it. That's what made it so memorable. I respect all the guys that did that."

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