Ten years ago this Saturday marks a historic milestone in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Although the last decade has seen a complete transformation of the best team to date in franchise history, there are journeys that still continue from both sides of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals between the Lightning and Calgary Flames.
The most notable, and heartwarming (depending on whose side you are on), saga of this year's Finals is the reunion of center Brad Richards and right wing Martin St. Louis playing together again on the New York Rangers. Both players were a tremendous contribution to the Lightning's success in 2004. Richards received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP for setting the NHL record for most game-winning goals in a single playoff season with 7, while St. Louis had some of his most breakout moments as a player, particularly saving the Lightning from elimination against Calgary in double overtime in game six. Now, 10 years later the longtime teammates are much older and much wiser as they get another opportunity to be the last team standing.
In addition to St. Louis rekindling with Richards, there are other familiar faces on the Rangers' roster. New York center Dominic Moore played along side St. Louis in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs when a veteran Lightning team made its way to the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated in seven games by the Bruins. Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot was also a teammate of St. Louis' during last year's shortened Lightning season.
Besides the coincidence of former Lightning players representing the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup again, the Los Angeles Kings possess memorable elements from the Calgary Flames' 2004 Cinderella run. Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr was a standout player for the Flames in the Finals, despite suffering a torn ligament in his foot during game five against Tampa Bay. Although he is currently injured, Regehr will carry a great deal of experience and leadership for the Kings in this year's Finals, especially having recently played in his 1000th career NHL game.
Even more fitting to recognize this anniversary is Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter competing for the Stanley Cup a third time from behind the bench. Sutter's first appearance in the Finals with the Flames in 2004 earned him a nomination for the Jack Adams Award, given to the most standout NHL coach of the season. After taking over a sinking Calgary team not to long before, Sutter eventually transformed the Flames into a respectable contender that went on to have an even better record than the Lightning following the 2004-05 season lockout.
Although this year's Stanley Cup Finals matchup takes place in a new era, there are still legacies carried on from many angles that are worth cherishing and remembering.