1. News

Tampa turns blue and white as Lightning playoff fever strikes

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn holds his stick aloft as he and  Dave Andreychuk, the Lightning's Vice President of Corporate & Community Affairs. prepare to unroll a giant Tampa Bay Lightning banner next to City Hall on Monday. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn holds his stick aloft as he and Dave Andreychuk, the Lightning's Vice President of Corporate & Community Affairs. prepare to unroll a giant Tampa Bay Lightning banner next to City Hall on Monday. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Apr. 10, 2018


The blue-and-white yard signs are flying off give-away tables. The car flags, too. And a big blue banner proclaiming "Go Bolts!" now hangs from the city's Municipal Office Building downtown.

It's Stanley Cup playoff time in Tampa.

On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning face off against the New Jersey Devils to open the first round of the National Hockey League's second season.

After the lunchtime rush Tuesday, David Mangione paused a moment to make a prediction about how Hattricks Tavern — the 21-year-old "original Lightning bar" in the shadow of Amalie Arena — would look in 48 hours.

"People will start to arrive 31/2 hours before game time," said Mangione, the tavern's managing partner. "Every seat will be taken. The line will stretch out the door."

Mangione expects that kind of business for weeks to come. This year's Lightning squad reminds him of the 2004 Stanley Cup champions.

"Best team in the East. This is a very similar type of situation," Mangione said. "Especially since they didn't make the postseason last year, the anticipation level is high to amp it up and get after it."

On Monday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn stood in the bucket of a Tampa Fire Rescue ladder truck and pulled out wire clippers to release and unfurl the team banner in what has become a City Hall tradition.

Lowered back to earth, Buckhorn, clad in a Lightning jersey (#58, "The Mayor" across his back), said April is the month his city gets serious about hockey.

"This town will be wearing blue for the next couple of weeks," Buckhorn said. "Who would have thought 20 years ago that Tampa would become a hockey town?"

The StubHub online ticket service reported late Monday that the average price for a ticket to Thursday's game was $113 with more than 1,700 seats remaining. More than 60 percent of sales have been to Florida residents. Just 6 percent came from New Jersey and New York.

Three years ago, when the Lightning battled the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final, the team made national news by refusing to sell tickets to out-of-state fans and forbidding rival fans from wearing their team's jerseys in some parts of the arena.

Those policies have been relaxed for this year's playoff run.

Still, fans sitting in the high-priced and highly visible seats in the Vology Loge, Lexus Lounge and Chase Club section are prohibited from wearing opposing logos, said Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett.

And any Devils fans in those sections thinking about ripping off their outerwear, Superman-style, to reveal the black and red underneath, take heed: If you bare Devils gear, you'll be asked to check it. The Lightning will even provide alternate shirts.

Still, in a message sent to fans, the team didn't completely stamp out displays of out-of-town passion.

"Those guests can still access the clubs, enjoy the game with you and even cheer for their team," the statement read.

The previous policy preventing ticket sales or resales by season ticket holders to rival fans has gone by the boards, Wickett said.

"We don't need to do it. We have more season ticket holders than ever before," he said.

The Lightning has sold out 148 straight games, including the playoffs, and counts nearly 15,000 season ticket holders among the 19,092 seats in Amalie Arena.

Having a playoff team is good for Tampa and a great opportunity to show off the city's booming downtown, said Lynda Remund, chief executive officer and president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

"We've got Water Street, Armature Works and Julian B. Lane park and the Rays possibly coming to Ybor," Remund said. "All four corners are coming together."

The lunchtime crowd at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square on Monday wore plenty of blue and white, but no one was more decked out than David Ferguson.

The 28-year-old Publix cashier from Clearwater took a day off to attend the festivities downtown, wandering among the cornhole games and merchandise give-away booths.

"I needed a new yard sign and I've got to be here for the playoff energy," said Ferguson, clad in a Lightning jersey and wraparound reflective sunglasses, and cradling a large plastic hammer — a "Thor" hammer, to be precise.

A fan from as far back as he can remember, Ferguson carries the hammer to the dozen or so games he attends each year but leaves it in his car. It's not allowed inside Amalie Arena.

Ferguson will be wielding his good-luck token with confidence this playoff season. He's convinced the Lightning is going to win its first Stanley Cup title since 2004.

About 20 men donated $20 to have their whiskers shaved at Monday's event so they could get their "playoff beards" started — a tradition among players and fans.

Shirley Vereen, 57, a county worker from Tampa, stopped by to grab some freebies, including a Lightning place mat destined for her floors to protect them from whatever splashes or spills out of the bowls of her terrier mix Taz.

"How do you not support this?'' Vereen asked. "How many cities have a hockey team?"

Contact Charlie Frago at or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.


  1. Gabriel Tillman faces charges of grand theft for the fire extinguisher, as well as petit theft and criminal mischief ($200 or less). [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
    Video shows Gabriel Tillman push, punch, hip check and ultimately use a fire extinguisher to try to smash his way through a locked door.
  2. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hits in the batting cage during a meeting with minor league baseball players and officials at FunCity Turf, Sunday in Burlington, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) [CHARLIE NEIBERGALL  |  AP]
    The Democratic presidential candidate is aggressively opposing a Major League Baseball plan to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.
  3. Shane Sheil, 16, only wanted three things for Christmas, an Xbox 360, a skateboard and a family.  After a story about Shane ran in the St. Petersburg Times, the community responded, and two of his three wishes have already been fulfilled.  Someone donated an Xbox 360 to him, and a local skateboard shop offered to let him come in and pick out anything he wanted.  He now spends his days playing games like Need for Speed Carbon with friends, and said he hopes he can go get the skateboard up soon.  (MELISSA LYTTLE | Times) [LYTTLE, MELISSA  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    The generosity of more than 100 people Shane Sheil, a 16-year-old in Pinellas County’s foster care system, never met changed his life.
  4. Shane Sheil, 16, rides his bike to and from school every day.  He prides himself on his speed as well as being self-sufficient.   (MELISSA LYTTLE | Times) [LYTTLE, MELISSA  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    “I wish someone would actually be there for me, you know? I’m outgoing. I can bring joy. I just want to be adopted.”
  5. From the left: Christyana Richardson, 10, Terrence Simpson, 11, Sherina Akins, 33, Tharon Simpson, 12, Isaiah Shine, 11 months-old and Bronchea King, 5, near their home in North Miami. [MATIAS J. OCNER MOCNER | Miami Herald]
    Sherina Akins, a single mother of three, adopted a cousin’s two children who were about to be placed in foster care.
  6. Elias Alan-Arturo Flor, 19, of Wahneta was charged with battery and committing a lewd act in front of a child 16 or younger after turning himself into authorities. [Winter Haven Police Department]
    Elias Alan-Arturo Flor was arrested after turning himself in at the police station.
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    The suspect and the victim did not know each other prior to the shooting.
  8. Former FBI Director James Comey talks with "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, Sunday morning, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) [KEVIN WOLF  |  AP]
    The report did not find evidence for the most sensational of President Donald Trump’s claims, including that he had been wiretapped and illegally spied on.
  9. Trapped flower vendors are pulled out from a collapsed wall following an earthquake that struck Padada, Davao del Sur province, southern Philippines on Sunday. A strong quake jolted the southern Philippines on Sunday, causing a three-story building to collapse and prompting people to rush out of shopping malls, houses and other buildings in panic, officials said. (AP Photo/John Angelo Jomao-as) [JOHN ANGELO JOMAO-AS  |  AP]
    A child was killed when a wall of her house tumbled down as the ground shook and hit her in the head, officials said.
  10. This image made from undated video provided by Zola shows a scene of its advertisement. Under pressure from a conservative advocacy group, The Hallmark Channel has pulled the ads for wedding-planning website Zola that featured same-sex couples, including two brides kissing. The family-friendly network, which is in the midst of its heavily watched holiday programming, removed the ads because the controversy was a distraction, a spokesperson said in an interview on Saturday. (Zola via AP) [AP]
    The ad featured two brides kissing at the altar.