Back to back! What an amazing season and year for Champa Bay! From hosting and winning the Super Bowl in our own backyard to hoisting that Stanley Cup for a second year, Tampa is making history in a big way.
On behalf of a grateful community, I want to thank the players for working and playing hard in true Tampa fashion. From Nikita “Kuch” Kucherov playing in the Stanley Cup Final with a broken rib to Yanni Gourde sliding across the celebration stage on a ... trolley? ... dolly? Whatever you call that thing, it was pretty epic.
I want to say a special congratulations to Andre “Vasy” Vasilevskiy on the well-deserved Conn Smythe Trophy. Best goalie of all time right there! I told him the other day I feel bad for his young son, because he will never get anything past dad.
Victor Hedman gave Tom Brady a run for his money with a perfect beer toss to me during the boat parade. But the real MVP in my book is ThunderBug, who spent hours in the blazing Tampa Bay sun during Monday’s boat parade without a single air conditioning break or complaint. I’m happy to report for anyone still asking — no, Stanley did not take a swim.
Our Bolts may have ended the season a little banged up — Stanley included — but with more fighting spirit than any other team in the nation. There is no better hockey community than Tampa Bay.
As a lifelong resident, I’ve seen Tampa change more over the last 10 years than it has in my entire lifetime, and a big part of that is thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Vinik family and all that this incredible organization has done for our community. The Viniks set the standard for other owners.
And finally, I want to thank the fans in our community. From being the distant thunder last year to packing Amalie Arena this year, you were there every step of the way. While it’s ironic the Lightning Celebration got cut short by lightning, our fans never missed a chance to be the thunder. They stood in a deluge to cheer on our team, and if that doesn’t speak to the heart of our Bolts fans, I don’t know what does.
These back-to-back championships proved yet again that Tampa is a city on the rise, and no one is stopping us. When faced with challenges, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or skate laces, and overcome any obstacle to get the job done. It’s what’s led to our growth, our shared sense of city pride, and our resilience as a community. Our momentum is electric, and people want to move here so that they can be part of our success story too.
To our Bolts, you gave us an incredible season and we are so proud. Here’s a promise I make to each of you moving forward: When it comes to predicting games, I’ll stick to being mayor and let you boys win on the ice. But I will say, a win was wonderful but a win at home was wonderfully sweet.
I had complete confidence in your path to victory — never a moment of doubt. You outplayed every team at every turn. And to anyone who had any doubt whatsoever about the grit and heart of Lightning players and fans, I must paraphrase Kuch. “That is the number one BS.”
Jane Castor is mayor of Tampa.