The true dead of summer for hockey is coming, and it's especially coming to Tampa starting on Sunday.
Last year at this time, the then-St. Pete Times Forum was undergoing its expedited, dramatic renovation. The building itself could be seen as a giant void (with lack of events) while construction continued, but there was life to it. It was a caterpillar, transforming in a cocoon. We were kept informed what was going on with pictures and video updates... And it was all well worth the wait in the end.
This year, the now-Tampa Bay Times Forum once again shuts down for all intents and purposes. Concert season? Storm Football? Charity hockey? Perhaps alumni events to coincide the 20th anniversary season for the Bolts? Not in this building.
On Sunday, July 15th, Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment - the formal business name for what amounts to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm franchises - secedes control of the Forum to the Republican National Committee in preparation for their national convention. The RNC will have full control of Times Palace until midnight on September 13th. That's when their pumpkin turns back into our stagecoach and we can continue on our hockey journey.
The business of the Lightning goes on, though. It'll be scattered, but will continue during its temporary eviction from 401 Channelside Drive. Some of the executives who oversee the business dealings for the franchise will work out of the SunTrust building in downtown Tampa for the duration, while other office employees will work from home.
The hockey operations staff will be working at a different location: Brandon and the Ice Sports Forum. Some arena staff will remain in place to aid in operations / set up, but others are on their own until September.
In the end, Tampa is getting it's close up in the news cycle, with Times Palace being center stage. For us hockey fans, this just feels like an earlier onset of the doldrums... If this makes next season feel closer or further away, it really depends on your thinking.