TAMPA – Lightning fans couldn’t contain themselves as the Presidents’ Trophy was walked out to center ice at Amalie Arena and placed on a small round table to the right of the Lightning’s bench before Saturday’s game against the Capitals.
The claps started early and continued to get louder as deputy commissioner Bill Daly presented the trophy to captain Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos shook hands with Daly hand and placed his left hand on the right side of the trophy, then smiled as he carried it toward the bench.
Stamkos shocked many as he touched the trophy. Similar to the superstition surrounding the trophies awarded to the conference final winners, many decline to touch it, believing the real prize — the Stanley Cup — is yet to be won.
The Presidents’ Trophy, given to the team with the league’s best regular-season record, isn’t usually presented like it was to the Lightning. As Tampa Bay closed in on clinching it, the NHL reached out asking if it wanted a trophy presentation.
Coach Jon Cooper, general manager Julian BriseBois and team adviser Steve Yzerman decided that the regular season was worth a celebration.
Cooper previously said the Lightning should be proud of winning the Presidents’ Trophy, calling it a reward to the whole organization from the coaches to the fans.
In deciding between having the ceremony before Monday’s game against the Bruins or Saturday’s game, the Lightning thought it would be appropriate to share the trophy with the home crowd as a surprise on Fan Appreciation Night.
Fans had a chance to get up close and personal with the trophy on the arena’s suite level and the main concourse during the game.
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.