Advertisement

Rangers fans stand out at Amalie Arena’s Lightning watch party

For the first time this postseason, fans (even the opposing ones) got to experience a game inside the home arena while the team is on the road.
Cheyenne Valentine and Alexander Oliva may have been outnumbered at the Amalie Arena watch party, but they went home happy after the Rangers won Game 1.
Cheyenne Valentine and Alexander Oliva may have been outnumbered at the Amalie Arena watch party, but they went home happy after the Rangers won Game 1. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jun. 2, 2022

TAMPA — Amanda Cohen knew when she bought her watch party tickets for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final that she would stand out from the Amalie Arena crowd.

Donning a blue Rangers jersey with Rick Nash’s name and a 2015 Conference final patch, she was one of 4,000 attendees — and one of very few Rangers fans — as her team sealed a 6-2 win 1,200 miles away on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I like being a New Yorker and being the minority,” said Cohen, 34. “I love all of the animosity. Everybody thinks they’re giving me a hard time. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

The atmosphere inside the arena resembled as much of a home Lightning game as it could. Fans celebrated and danced to “Sweet Caroline” when Ondrej Palat scored the 2-all tying goal.

Even outnumbered by blue and white sweaters, Cohen, a lifelong Rangers fans, knew she wanted to be among the hecklers having been to previous Lightning watch parties. It was the next-best thing for the Long Island, N.Y., native, who is hopeful she’ll get to attend Games 3 and 4 when the series comes to Tampa.

“(This matchup) is just electric,” she said.

And while Cohen clearly was in the minority, she wasn’t alone. Fellow Rangers fan Gia Rosenthal wanted to be in on the action, too. Sitting near the Zamboni tunnel, she was more than happy to raise her arms in celebration as she watched New York’s Chris Kreider — her favorite player — open scoring in the first period.

“(I like) the environment of seeing all of the sports fans, the hockey fans because it’s really all about the sport,” said Rosenthal, 22.

Like Cohen, Rosenthal is used to standing out from the crowd. Working as the store manager at a Lids Locker Room store, she often dons Rangers apparel while selling Lightning merchandise. And it was just as hard to blend into a sea of blue wearing a white Henrik Lundqvist jersey and red Rangers baseball cap.

“It took me about 30 minutes to find one person who wore Rangers stuff,” she joked.

Cheyenne Valentine, a Lightning fan of more than 10 years, got a chuckle out of the chorus of boos that rang out from her section when her boyfriend, Alexander Oliva, stood up in his blue Mark Messier jersey, celebrating after Kreider’s goal.

“I love it,” said Valentine, 35. “It cracks me up.”

The boos, however, didn’t discourage Oliva, who grew up in Queens, from celebrating the rest of the night. Though he said he kept his celebrations respectful knowing there is still plenty of the series remaining to be played.

“I always get a hard time, but I don’t care,” said Oliva, 35. “I’m going to wear my jersey every time they play.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

• • •

Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.