Ryan Ellis doesn’t live in the Sunshine State anymore, but Tampa Bay Lightning game days are still sacred for the Florida native. When the Bolts play, he’s hydrated and well-rested, wearing the same jersey the team will put on that evening — he has his name on all of the colors. His man cave is decorated with goal lights and horns, and chips, salsa and guacamole are at the ready.
“My infant has a pink, long-sleeve Bolts jersey that she wears before bedtime and my dog gets a ‘special’ pregame meal mixture of wet and dry food (only on game days),” Ellis, who now lives in Connecticut, wrote in an email. “When she finishes, then she puts on her pet-jersey as well so we all match for the game!”
You can find special rituals among followers of just about every sport. Lightning fans, praying for the Stanley Cup again, are no exception. To see how they’re preparing for the playoffs, we asked in the Facebook group TB Lightning Nation, the Tampa Bay Lightning subreddit, on the Tampa Bay Times Instagram account, and on Twitter. These fans didn’t let us down.
Their routines rope in their kids and pets. They whip up special foods, wear (or don’t wear) specific items of clothing, and have strong feelings about facial hair.
Here are some of our favorites submissions, edited for length and clarity:
- I have a playlist I play prior to every single game. It’s got 5 songs — Lightning by Cash Cash, Gravy Train and Tampa Bay Bustdown by Yung Gravy, The Final Countdown by Europe, and Back to Back by Drake. I always wear a Bolts hat as well — @legendofthetim via Twitter
- A few years ago they used to give out these foam Lightning beards during the playoff watch parties. We won every game in which they both handed them out at and I was wearing one. I still have one left and I’ll never get rid of it after wearing it for the cup win. I wear it as much as possible now and they are surprisingly easy to clean. — lxpif via Reddit
- I can’t even watch games because every time I do, they lose. During a finals game last year when they were leading, I turned it on and the Stars promptly tied it to ultimately win. So now i just wear my lucky shirt and let my mom text me updates. — @catherinetinker via Twitter
- Making piping hot pancakes on game day — @natashanocturna via Instagram
- Whichever of the sweater, T-shirt, or polo is on the hot streak gets worn for every game until a loss, unwashed, no exceptions. Once we lose, that particular shirt is then washed (suds away the bad juju) and is replaced with the next one up. After a win, I wear my Bolts tie to work the following day. Also, I make my cat wear her Bolts jersey for a minimum of 5 minutes and it must be on by anthem time. — GaLaw via Reddit
- Break out all my stuff from 2004! Gets that Bolt MOJO going! — Thomas Griffing via Facebook
- I’m very superstitious and believe any type of hubris can cost us the game. Come playoff time I take all my gear (I’m talking flags, jerseys, water bottles, T-shirts, my phone case, magnets, etc.) throw it into a box and stuff that away where I can’t see it or touch it. I also refuse to wear any gear at a game. Like not wearing the band tee for the concert you’re at. — Jackie McKenna via Reddit
- My daughter wears her Lightning onesie all day, then changes right before puck drop. — @jennbialozynski via Instagram
- I have to watch the game with my Baby Yoda — he even has his own Bolts sweater! — Sky Roberts via Instagram
- In 2015, game 3 against the Rangers, I had a Pop-Tart after the first commercial during the game. Right after I started eating, Stammer scored. Eventually the Lightning won the game in OT. Now after every first commercial of a playoff game, I eat a Pop-Tart. When the commercial happens my wife says it’s “Pop-Tart time.” — Joshua Davis via Facebook
- I opened a bottle of whiskey at the start of the playoffs. One neat pour at the start of the game. Must finish before first period is over (easy, lol). Can’t drink from that bottle any other time. — Chris Ryzoc via email
- I promised myself that I’ll only shave my beard the next time Tampa gets eliminated from the playoffs. With the way they’re playing, looks like I’ll never have to shave it off. Sorry, wifey. — SausageBest via Reddit
- Brother and nephew visiting from out of town came to watch the 8-0 game with us. After Tampa Bay lost game 6, I taped pictures of them both in the same spots where they sat for game 5 on our couch. It’s been working like a charm. — @chris98730 via Twitter
- My lucky jorts...After every playoff loss I have to cut them a little higher to keep them lucky. — Ryan Fredericks via Instagram
- Never say we’re going to win. — Stanley Harrell via Facebook
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Ashley Dye and Bernadette Berdychowski contributed to this report.