Twenty-three years ago today, at the Florida Expo Hall on the Florida State Fairgrounds outside of Tampa, Florida, Tampa Bay Lightning was born. Tampa Bay Lightning victory was birthed as well. Chris Kontos had his epic four-goal game and the Bolts took down the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3.
(note: if anyone can find a more complete game clip - please post a link in comments)
Here's Chris Kontos' handiwork highlighted:
(thanks to chuckycrater in comments)
As a hockey market, Tampa Bay has come a long way since that faithful first-night - from watching games in a barn, to a baseball park in waiting, to suffering and celebrating on the banks of the Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa in the Ice Palace now known as Amalie Arena. We went from being neophytes to the sport to adapting to it and adopting it as our own (though the stereotypes of the region as non-traditional follow it to this day). As a franchise, the Lightning has made a storybook journey all of its own, with the ups and downs of players, owners and results that most every pro sports franchise could come across.
As a sport, NHL hockey has made its own transition in the span of the last 23 years as well. I can't even begin to list all of the changes (on and off the ice) that have been done to the game to build interest and excitement, the labor strife and scandal, and of heroes that have come and gone.
Tonight, the National Hockey League gets back in action for another season - it nears 100 years of age now. Tomorrow, the Bolts will start their 23rd season of play with sights set on the playoffs and hopes on a championship. That is a long way, indeed, from the time where the club and the region only wished to find enjoyment in the spectacle of the game.