TAMPA — For a second straight season, the Lightning raised a Stanley Cup championship banner inside their home arena.
But unlike last year, when the banner was unveiled before the home opener but not hoisted until almost two months later when fans were permitted in the building on a limited basis, the banner was raised all the way to the rafters before Tuesday’s game against the Penguins.
In front of a capacity crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena.
“Last year, the banner sat a quarter raised, waiting for some fans to be in the building,” coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday morning. “The banner raise is for the fans, and that’s something you should take pride in, because they’ve been with us through this whole process.”
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said the night was a testament to the fans who stuck with the team through “thick and thin.” He said he planned to reflect during the ceremony on the sacrifices that were made along the way to the team’s second straight championship.
Bally Sports Sun host Paul Kennedy served as the emcee for a 10-minute-plus ceremony honoring last season’s Cup run. Phil Pritchard, one of the Stanley Cup’s keepers, carried the Cup onto the ice and placed it on a table at the north end of the rink.
Chants rang out as each player’s name was called, even those who joined the team during the offseason. One by one, they skated onto the ice, gathering around the team logo at center ice, where they raised their sticks to acknowledge the fans. They then lined up to watch as the banner was raised to the rafters, taking its place alongside those recognizing their 2003-04 and 2019-20 championships.
Before the Cup was taken from the ice and the new season began with puck drop against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Pat Maroon and Mikhail Sergachev bid it one last farewell, hoping it won’t be long before they are reunited again.
“It’s almost like it’s the end of the chapter,” Cooper said. “The book was written, and the banner raising is one last ‘this-is-what-we-did, thank you,’ and then it starts the new season.”
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