Steven Stamkos hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head, screaming as his teammates cheered him on.
There were no fans in the building to share in the moment, but the smiles were just as big. Stamkos passed the Cup to Victor Hedman, and it continued from player to player. There was no lap of the rink to share the moment with the fans, but the exhilaration was there as the Lightning players and coaches celebrated their championship among themselves.
“We’re going to be Stanley Cup champs forever,” Victor Hedman said after the 2-0 win in Game 6 at Edmonton’s Rogers Place. “It’s going to be in the history. Our kids, our grandkids, if they look at the Stanley Cup, they’re going to see our names."
He said it’s probably going to take months to fully set in and to really find the words to explain the emotions that come with winning this trophy.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk called it the lightest 35 pounds he’s ever lifted above his head.
Typically stoic general manager Julien BriseBois let out a yell as he lifted it.
The Stanley Cup has never been celebrated with so many cell phones. Usually there are hugs with families, but that had to be done virtually this year.
Players like Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev called their loved ones to share the celebration. Vasilevskiy put the trophy on the ice so he could show the person on the other end of his call.
Coach Jon Cooper got on a video call with team owner Jeff Vinik in the locker room, getting the whole team together in the frame.
“Awesome job," Vinik said on the phone. “This is so many years in the making. It was an unbelievable effort. You were dominant through the playoffs. You deserve it.”
This postseason was unlike any other, played in a bubble without fans and four months behind schedule. Players, executives and analysts wondered if this year teams might have the hardest path to the Cup. But the Lightning made it theirs.
“It’s been a grind,” Hedman said. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s all worth it now, for sure. We’re Stanley Cup champs.”
This is the second time the franchise has won the Stanley Cup, previously in 2004, but the first in the Vinik era.
The Lightning have been close for the past six years. They got to the final in 2015, but lost to Chicago. They got to the conference finals in 2016 and 2018, but couldn’t get through.
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This year, the Lightning started, and finished, without their captain. They didn’t make things easy on themselves with eight overtime games (excluding the round-robins) and the most overtime minutes in NHL history.
Monday’s game was the first time this postseason they didn’t clinch a series in overtime — but they’d gone into extra time in each of the past two games, playing almost three hours of hockey over 27 hours. The very first game of the playoffs went eight periods.
“That win in itself set us up for, no matter what was going to be thrown at us, we were going to find a way,” Ryan McDonagh said.
The Lightning are bringing the Stanley Cup back to Tampa to celebrate with family and friends, but they got started on Monday.
Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian held the Cup to pour sips of champagne into teammates' mouth. Stamkos said they’d be eating Swedish meatballs out of the Cup.