TAMPA — Lightning fans know they can’t directly contribute to the team’s success on the ice, but that doesn’t stop them from sticking to their personal superstitions.
The players aren’t taking any chances, either, with the franchise’s third straight championship on the line against the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup final.
Here’s how some players, fans and others around the team are helping this postseason:
Victor Hedman, Lightning defenseman: Known for his sense of style, the blueliner wasn’t taking any chances switching his “fit” after the Lightning defeated the Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. He wore the same suit for the next three games, which resulted in the team’s third consecutive Stanley Cup final berth. When it comes to media availabilities, Hedman likes to sit on the right side of the table facing the media, going so far as to move the sign with his name on it the one time they tried to place him on the left.
Michael Moore, 29, of Jacksonville: Moore doesn’t watch when the Lightning trail in a series. He watched the second-round sweep of the Panthers in its entirety but skipped Games 2, 3 and 4 of the conference final, waiting until the Lightning tied the series before tuning in for Games 5 and 6. “Might not be the weirdest habit,” he said, “but I certainly can’t argue with the results.”
Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, U.S. national anthem singer: Bryson-Kirksey wore the same pair of rainbow Crocs and an Allegiant Goods Co. T-shirt that read, “Tampa Bay by a Thousand” to Amalie Arena for the final four games of the conference final. She plans to continue the trend into the Cup final. Her husband, Jimmie, hasn’t shaved his beard or cut his hair since the playoffs began.
Greg Wolf, Lightning in-game host: Every game day morning, Wolf prays to the hockey gods for their protection over the Lightning. He repeats the prayer when he arrives at the arena. He also changes his shoes and Stanley Cup rings (2020 and 2021) based on whether the team is winning (he’ll repeat them) or losing (he’ll change them). “I used to think it was based upon shirts or not trimming my beard, but I’ve found that to not be the case for me,” Wolf said. “But I do believe in the prayer, shoes and ring.”
David Wyant, 39, of Sarasota: When Wyant completed chemotherapy treatment for liver cancer, his nurses delivered a parting gift: a Lightning-themed painted rock. The team is 9-1 when the rock is in his possession, which began with Game 7 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs. Wyant ran into a hiccup when he realized he forgot the rock at home on a trip to Atlanta, which coincided with the Lightning losing the first two games of the conference final. Back home in Sarasota for the remainder of the series, the team won the next three games.
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Lightning forward Corey Perry and defenseman Ryan McDonagh: Perry spoke to the media before Game 6 of the opening round. When the Lightning won, he continued to speak on every game day until the team lost its second-round opener at New York. McDonagh spoke after the morning skate before Game 3 of that round and continued through Game 6, when the Lightning won the Prince of Wales Trophy.
Achariya Rezak, 49, of Orlando: Rezak was bothered by Rangers fans engaging in what she called “negative faux religious behavior,” like attaching a photo of a pentagram to a tweet that read “tampa bay lightning you will never see another stanley cup” along with a folded hands emoji. Another fan shared photos of voodoo dolls of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in a private post to friends on Facebook. That’s when Rezak started using her personal altar to promote positive energy. Rezak, raised Buddhist by her Thai mother, used good energy to help balance out the bad starting with Game 2 against New York, the game when Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he felt his team flipped a switch. “It was a nice corroborating coincidence,” Rezak said.
Bryan Drozdowski, 37, of Land O’ Lakes: Drozdowski went out for a jog before Game 3 against the Rangers and then watched the game on silent on his phone from the floor next to his bed. After the Lightning won to cut its series deficit to 2-1, he kept the same routine for the remainder of the round. For the Cup final? “I believe each round has its own feel,” Drozdowski said. “So maybe I’ll try running outside or watching on my laptop in a different room. When they get that first win, I’ll know.”
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