When we last left our heroes, they were amid throes of victory and rejoicing. Operation: Andreychuk's Cup had been a success and David was asked, as if he needed direction, to come get his Stanley Cup by Commissioner Gary Bettman. The Cup was secured as the possession of the franchise for the duration of the off-season and fans across the region proudly and fondly reposed in that that knowledge.
Then all hell broke loose...
To summarize, the 2004-05 National Hockey League season was killed by any and all of the following words in no particular order: stubbornness, thoughtlessness, greed, tactlessness, cluelessness, incompetence, greed, grubbing, strife, anarchy, deranged thoughts, heartlessness, out-of-touchness, stupidity, greed, discombobulations, bickering, cruelty, squabbling, disinformation, lying, brown-nosing, groveling, friction, disunity, disloyalty, havoc, idiocy, gluttony, selfishness, distortions, incompatibility, partisan politics of a business variety, hate, small minds, big pockets, money grubbing and greed.
Did I say greed? Did I say it enough?
OK, now you have all these words that played out in various forms over months and months on end - any one of those words can be used to describe any number of people or situations that have passed over a year time span and basically helped screw the fans. Every fan.
But pay no heed to that now, for it is over and done with. That's old news, old thoughts, old concerns. Push it to the back of your mind because it don't mean jack no more. New news? New rules, new regulations, new jerseys, new finances, new hopes, new league logo, new national TV stations, new dreamers, new schedules, new contracts, new concerns...
Yet the reigning champions remain the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The banner goes up - finally - tonight in the much overdue return of NHL hockey to Times Palace! Tonight is our Epiphany and also our last chance to immerse ourselves in the improbable but indomitably awesome spectacle that was the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2003-04 season.
From here on in, for this team, having won in 2003-04 doesn't mean jack. Old news - sweep it under the rug because we're done with it. They did it - now forget it, because that's one hellaciously long climb in front of this team and just like every other franchise in this National Hockey League. The Lightning start from the bottom rung of the ladder and will have work their way up to the top if they have any dreams of repeating.
And that's an improbably climb. Improbable - not impossible.
It's a year in the making, ladies and gents, it's Opening night! Dust off your jersey, get the ballcap out of the drawer and go grab a cold one! Your champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are finally set to return!
The Cup defense begins NOW!