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SB Nation asks: How did you become a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning?

SBNation is redesigning, and in celebration of the new look, we open up the floor to discuss how you became a hockey fan.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Raw Charge! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!


Achariya

One day in 1996, I was dragged to a Bruins game at the brand-new TD Garden. They were hosting the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. "Wasn't this a movie?" I thought to myself.

I got to the game and found myself completely and utterly fascinated by the skill on the ice. Not of the Boston Bruins, who looked kind of slow and heavy on the ice to me, but of the Mighty Ducks. The Ducks won that game 4-3 in overtime, but the best player on the ice, for me, was a young guy that looked kind of half-Asian. 1995-1996 was the season that Paul Kariya garnered 50 goals and 58 assists, good enough to earn him a Hart nomination and a place on the First All-Star Team.

I am also half-Asian, and it never occurred to me that ice hockey would have a player that mirrored my own white/Asian culture. I began to research Kariya, and the beauty of his plays on the ice -- especially with Teemu Selanne -- led me to become a hockey fan. When Kariya's concussions forced him to retire early, I lost interest in the game for a long time.

I only recently started watching hockey again when I learned that a former Red Wings player had just stepped into the role of General Manager of my nearest NHL team — and I've never looked back.

GeoFitz

My first real taste of hockey came during the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. Growing up in Florida playing Little League Baseball and backyard football, I had not been exposed to hockey. I did not have cable until I got into college and was limited to only what was broadcast over the air. Needless to say, hockey wasn’t on the TV very much for me.

But the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals was different. I very distinctly remember watching Game 6 and staying up to see Martin St. Louis score the overtime goal to bring the series back to Tampa. And again watching Game 7, and seeing the atmosphere that was rocking in the then-St. Pete Times Forum.

Unfortunately, the lockout in 2004-05 killed any momentum that hockey may have gained for me, and for much of the Tampa Bay area. In 2007, I started to seriously follow the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays with my interest growing even more in 2008 as the team became relevant as the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the 2008 and 2009 MLB seasons, I got into a habit of coming home from work, eating dinner, and sitting down to watch the Rays games on Sun Sports or Fox Sports Florida.

The 2009 season came to an end for the Rays in October and I still had that habit. I soon began to discover when I turned on Sun Sports that I was seeing Lightning games. I became interested again, and this interest grew even greater during the 2010-11 season. Despite the 2012-13 lockout, I remained interested and engaged and finally attended my first Lightning game in person at the start of the 2013-14 season. My second game was Vincent Lecavalier’s return to Tampa with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Despite living an hour away from the arena, I have rarely missed a game over the past three seasons. I’m already signed up for next season and look forward to being a STM for years to come.

JustinG.

How did I become a Tampa Bay Lightning fan? By going to a lot of bad hockey games in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My hockey fandom does predate the Steve Martins/ Stan Druilia Lightning, though. It is, sad to say, that I once identified as a Washington Capitals fan.

Growing up in the Baltimore area in the mid-to-late-1980s (I am old) meant you followed baseball and that was about it. The red had yet to be rocked outside of the Washington DC area. The limit of my hockey knowledge was attending a single Caps/Rangers game at the old Capital Centre in Landover and Wayne Gretzky on Saturday Night Live.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s and I’m attending a small college in the rolling hills of eastern Pasco County, Florida. Among my circle of friends were a couple of kids who had grown up playing hockey. Bored mindless on a small, dry, college campus in the middle of cow pastures they rustled up some hockey equipment and started playing roller hockey on the tennis courts (the tennis coach was not pleased).

Due to a combination of my inability to skate without falling down, surprising flexibility for a larger kid and no one else (including our friend Al, who was a goalie at a collegiate level) wanting to do it, I ended up in the net. Many hellacious bruises and a near brush with heatstroke later, I was hooked to the game.

In my senior season of college, thanks to a light schedule, I started attending Lightning games with my buddy Link. While I was still nominally a Caps fan (if Esa Tikkanen hadn’t missed an open net, it’s a different series) the Lightning were growing on me.

We watched a lot of bad hockey over the next two years, and while Link moved away, I kept going to games as the Lightning (along with the Michael Jordan of hockey, Vincent Lecavalier), slowly, painfully got better. I replaced my Caps jersey (Screamin’ Eagle 4 life!) with a knock-off Lightning jersey and went all in as a Bolts fan. It all culminated with the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Actium

I was born in Tampa Bay back in 1989 but moved to West Virginia (don’t ask) in 1992. I skated playing hockey when I was four and my love for the sport grew from there. During my adolescence, it never registered to me that the Lightning were from Tampa Bay. So, prior to figuring that out, I did what my father did which was root for specific players. Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, and Pavel bure were my favorite players during the 90’s.

Then came the summer draft of 1998 where the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier with the first overall pick. This was the first time I had ever paid attention to anything outside of what happened on the ice.

It was also when the giant lightbulb came on and I put together “Tampa Bay” and “Lightning”. After that, admittedly late, realization I decided to choose Tampa Bay as my hockey team since I was born there. It just felt right.

I lived in West Virginia until the summer of 2004 and then moved down to Port Richey, Florida a few weeks after the Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames to secure their first Stanley Cup. Up until this point, I played hockey regularly, but once my family moved to Port Richey my hockey playing days were over. Both of my parents worked full-time jobs and they just didn’t have the time to drive me all the way to Tampa (roughly a 40 min drive from where we were) multiple times a week for hockey.

Then came post high school (my Navy years 2008-2016) and I lost my interest in the Lightning and hockey in general from 2008-2012. Once I moved to the Seattle area in the summer of 2012 I made a concerted effort to get back into hockey.

I started to play again and dove back into everything associated with hockey and the Lightning. Since then I haven’t missed anything related to Tampa Bay; additionally, since I moved back into the Tampa Bay area last June (8 years of deployments visiting 15 countries and moving 4 different times makes being an invested fan a bit difficult) my love for the team and city has been firmly reignited.

Alex Ackerman (Allokago)

I was a sophomore in college, and my high school best friend and I were trying to figure out ways to keep in touch. She was living in a dorm at a Syracuse college at the time, and I was still at home attending SUNY Oswego. She got her hands on a couple of tickets to a Syracuse Crunch game one night, and her sister offered to give me a lift down to the game. Although I had no interest in the team or the sport, it was something to do together, so I decided to go.

I never imagined how fateful that decision would turn out to be.

The Crunch weren’t very good that year, and even though the NHL lockout had put guys like Alexandr Svitov in the AHL, I didn’t have the knowledge to know how rare it was to see those guys playing in Syracuse. However, something about it all stuck with me. I started attending games more regularly, and eventually I began to learn about the game, the players who played it, and the league they played in.

One guy in particular caught my eye that season: Karl Goehring, the Crunch’s netminder. Those of you who have followed my writing probably aren’t surprised to hear that a goalie helped to developed my passion for hockey. Goehring’s story is a special one, an underdog tale of a 5’8 hockey player from Minnesota who made a career out of surprising people and defying many doubts about his height and his abilities.

Although Goehring wasn’t re-signed the following season, I returned to the Crunch as a regular fan in the fall of 2005, and supported the team as they reached the first round of the playoffs. I became a season ticket holder in the fall of 2006, and began to haunt the online communities that were based around the team. The rest, as they say, is history. 13 years later, I’ve become what local media personality Brent Axe once described as the Crunch’s Ultimate Hockey Mom, doing whatever I can to support the team I love.

Saima

A few years ago, my cousin Hina invited me to a Capitals game. At the time, hockey was a foreign concept to me. I knew there were two goalies and a bunch of other people on the ice, but that was it. By the end of the game, I was a bonafide hockey fan. My cousin was more than happy to guide me through the landscape of hockey. I learned all of the most important information from her, like Alex Ovechkin is wonderful and Sidney Crosby is a steaming pile of garbage - you know, the essentials of hockey.

I flew back home and dove head first into the Lightning. That led me down the winding path to Twitter and reddit. I credit r/TampaBayLightning and r/hockey for truly developing my understanding of the Bolts and the game in general. I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be writing here if it wasn’t for that community.

Now I can’t get enough of the team. That’s why I enjoy writing transcripts and doing the daily Quick Strikes post. They keep me up to date on everything going on with the organization at every level. My brain is a minefield of random facts and quotes from post-game press conferences. Honestly, if Yzerman ever says anything, I’ve got it cataloged somewhere in my brain (and probably also on this site).

One final point: Brayden is a wonderful, magical rookie. Sorry, I couldn’t resist making a Point pun.

How about you? Please tell your story in a FanPost!

If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

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