If 1992 doesn't seem like that long ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning (along with assorted smart alecks saying things like "I was in kindergarten!") are going to spend the next year making you feel very old. That's right, the upcoming season will be the 20th in franchise history.
20 is one of those milestone years when you're obligated to look back and celebrate and/or be embarrassed by what has happened along the way to where we are now. Undoubtedly, there are plans being hatched right now behind closed doors at the Forum to observe this milestone throughout the season. I'd be willing to bet we're going to see some old faces that haven't been around in a while (Larry Hirsch? John Cullen? Manon Rhéaume? Bingo Bob?).
Our question this week is, if you could make a suggestion regarding the best way to observe the occasion, what would it be? Below the jump, you'll find answers from the Raw Charge staff as well as others from around the Boltosphere. Let us know what you think in the comments section!
Mike Gallimore - Electric Blue Hockey Test
I'm sure there'll be a slew of obvious must-do's (a free public showing of the 2004 Championship DVD or Game 7 of the SCF) and classy gestures (honoring former captains, inaugural players, Cup-winners, etc.) that I'm sure will get mentioned, but I've really only got one burning desire:
Evgeny Artyukhin brought back as a guest usher so he can bop opposing fans (especially those wearing jerseys of teams not even playing that night) in the head with an inflatable helmet.
In the absence of that, I'd settle for having an image of Barry Melrose flash across the new jumbotron and Steven Stamkos lead us in a round of public laughter.
Happy 20th, Bolts!
Cassie McClellan - Raw Charge
Well, they've already given Phil Esposito a statue, so....
I'd like for the Tampa Bay Lightning to coordinate with the other team that's having their 20th anniversary, the Ottawa Senators, and make very game between those two teams into a self-congratulatory orgy of 1992 expansion team-ness.
Not just in Tampa, but also in Ottawa. Let's end this Canadian-based teams versus American-based teams nonsense, and just celebrate NHL hockey. And there's no better way to start that than to partner up with their brother expansion team and have some fun with it. Have a 1990s night, give out door prizes, invite Grunge bands that are still around to do the national anthems, have previous draft picks - expansion draft and entry draft - do ceremonial puck drops, drag out the 1992 jerseys - the whole works. Just go totally over the top, but only for Ottawa games, and keep it classy the rest of the season.
Why not, right?
20 years… 20 years…!
Lets start with our homage to yester-year with Ice Fest and as many former Bolts (and fan favorites) as possible. I want Brian Bellows, Petr Klima, Gordie Dwyer, Enrico Ciccone, John Cullen, Rob Zamuner, Darcy Tucker, Fredrik Modin, Chris Kontos, and so many other players – some who had only brief stays in Tampa, and others who had outright legacies – to appear.
While we’re at it, lets have a round-table discussion with every former Lightning head coach: Terry Crisp, Jacques Demers, Steve Ludzik, John Tortorella, Barry Melrose, Rick Tocchet, and Guy Boucher. What a conversation that could turn into.
That’s just for starters. I’d love to see the Bolts play pre-season exhibition games at the Florida State Fairgrounds and Lakeland Center, just for old times sake. (If that’s not possible, just play some in-state preseason games in Estero and Orlando for the sake of exposing Lightning hockey in other Florida markets).
It may be too late for this, but I’d like the "Bolts" alternate jersey retired for a 20th anniversary throwback, black uniform. Take the dark uniforms from 1992-2007 and replace the crest and shoulder patches with the current logos…
After much deliberation I’m going with: "I am a Stud" t-shirts. Surely there was a box or two of those Art Williams-era relics unearthed during the recent rennovations. Who wouldn’t want a reminder of the best marketing campaign for an overall number one pick? Yes, even better than "Seen Stamkos" or "Fail for Nail"(especially since his name is apparently pronounced "NaHEEL".
Williams had his share of faults, most notably throwing a heap of pressure on an 18-year-old Vincent Lecavalier by labeling him the "Michael Jordan of hockey" before Vinny even took a shift as a professional, but for all the bombast and lack of general hockey knowledge he did in fact save the team from possible relocation and cleared out a tremendous amount of debt that the previous owners had managed to accumulate.
His reign at the top only lasted for 13 wins and 9 eventful months, but without "Uncle Art" who knows, maybe the Lightning would have left town in 1998 and "Studly" Vinny Lecavalier would have been lifting the Stanley Cup for the Houston Lightning a few years later.
Nolan Whyte / Frozen Sheets of Hockey
Well, an alumni tournament would be a must. We could have the opening night lineup from 1992 on a team, the 2004 Cup team, the current roster, and a grab bag team made up of no-names who filled uniforms during some of the darker years. Let them play a round-robin and then compete for the John Cullen Trophy. Coaches? Crispy, Torts, Boucher, and I guess Jacques Demers and Steve Ludzik could split the bench for the no-namers.
Plus, set up a tattoo booth at home games (like the Islander did last year) and have a promotion where tattoos of Brian Bradley are free. I'm going for a full back-piece. When I wiggle my shoulder, he'll do a head-fake.
Matt Amos - Staff Writer / Don't Trade Vinny
What event? A Don't Trade Vinny Night at the Forum. That's right, my own night. I'd emcee, sit up in the box with Mishkin and Espo, then go out that night with Vinny. How would this benefit everyone else, you might ask?
Hell if I know, I'd just like to be honored next season.
Pete Choquette / Bolts Prospects
Brian Bradley Electric Blue Blazer Night. First 1900 fans wearing an electric blue blazer, you know, get tickets, you know, half off.
Tina Robinson - Staff Writer / Raw Charge
How about.... bringing back those god-awful jerseys from the early days? You know, the ones with the flames on the sleeves and all? The team could wear them for a game the auction them off. Of course if none of the fans want them, they could have a bonfire at center ice and burn the darn things....
Or maybe for one of the games, the team could sponsor a "Ninja Night" and anybody who is able to get into the building without getting caught can stay for the game free (Ninja suit and katana optional).
But seriously... I'd like to see a game where all the past team captains were honored and maybe all of the past head coaches recognized as well (If we can leave one of those "he who shall not be named" guys from the OK (not really) Hockey era...I mean he was only a head coach for like, 16 games so that doesn't really count, does it?)
Alexis Boucher / Sons of Andreychuk
Picture it. February 12th 2008. The Lightning are hosting the Montreal Canadiens at the Forum. After dropping to a line with Jan Hlavac and Michel Ouellet, Vaclav Prospal scores twice and tied his career-high in a season. Understandably, he was awarded the first star of the game.
Vinny wasn't too pleased with his demotion, so he staged an attack on John Tortorella and the coaching staff during his post game interview: http://youtu.be/CgfShDZ3f9Y
To commemorate the size of his stones and one of the oddest/funniest memories in recent Lightning history, I would love to see them install a bronze plaque on the bench immortalizing the event for generations to come.