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Lightning Round: Welcome to the best hockey town ever

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In vino veritas

Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

After sixty-five days in the bubble, the Tampa Bay Lightning were apparently ready to party. The city of Tampa was ready to host that party (not sure about the after-party at American Social). From boats to f-bombs, the Stanley Cup Champions let loose on Wednesday with a raucous party that spanned a river and ended up in a football stadium.

The Lightning kicked things off with a boat parade, kind of a mini-Gasparilla invasion with a hockey theme. Fortunately for Philip Pritchard, aka The Keeper of the Cup, Lord Stanley was not dropped into the Hillsborough River so he didn’t have to go diving after it. The Cup did make it’s way through the parade via a variety of watercraft (including a jet ski).

The Lightning set a new precedent for how future championships should be celebrated in the Tampa area. Why have a boring old parade with cars or trolleys when you can have boats. Boats are always fun. If New York can have the Canyon of Heroes, certainly Tampa can have the Channel of Champions.

It took a little longer than was planned to get the team and the Cup to Raymond James Stadium for the rally. These things always seem to run behind. Could it be the booze? Yeah, it’s probably the booze.

By the time the speeches started it was obvious that few of the players on the dais could be described as sober. While Pat “I’m the Big Rig and I’m back-to-back” Maroon went shirtless, Alex Killorn used his platform to recruit Tom Brady for Dock Talk with Killer, and Victor Hedman was speechless, the real star of the show was Nikita Kucherov.

For the first time I think the greater public is seeing the Nikita Kucherov that his teammates have occasionally talked about.

Surprising it was Mr. Vinik who dropped the first f-bomb of the night and it appears the players really enjoy playing for him as everyone who spoke was extremely complimentary of the Lightning owner.

The only person expressing as much pure joy as as Kucherov was the captain Steven Stamkos, who hasn’t stopped smiling since Monday night. He capped off the night with a rousing speech. The transcription as best as I could put together, for some reason the Fox Sports clip (see previous hyperlink that includes a few adult words) cuts out a sentence:

“I didn’t know I was going to talk tonight. Whooooooo! This is un-be-lievable. Unbelievable! I cannot believe it. I’ve been in this city for twelve years. I know, I’m getting old. But this is by far the best experience of my hockey life. And I couldn’t be happier to share it with every single person in this building tonight. I love these guys so much.

Kuuuuuuuuucccchhh.

I told these guys in the third round against the Islanders that they were an inspiration to me and my family in this playoff. We went through some really tough times and the reason why I was able to keep going was really because of these guys right here, The coaching staff, the ownership, the players, the fans. These guys were amazing.

There’s a reason why I wanted to be in this city for 8 more years. And it’s ‘cause we were going to bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa. And we f—-n did it! Whoooooooooo!

This city has embraced me, my family, every single one of these players like they were one of their own and I’m telling you what. I was so nervous watching those last two minutes of the final game, but it was all worth it, man.

To watch these guys, to watch our whole team win the Stanley Cup, it’s a dream come true. I’m so proud of each and every single person within this organization. I know we said it so many times, but Mr. Vinik, you started this. You started the culture that we have on this team and it’s not only the players you see on the ice, but it’s the community around us.

And I don’t give a s—t what people say about Florida and hockey, but this is the best hockey town ever.

I love you guys!

We got the Cup! [unintelligible]”

That’s The Captain, summing things up, the best way possible.

Flashback time? Yeah, I think we could use a little flashback to a younger Steven Stamkos, for some around these parts it might have been the first time they saw him on television:

If you missed the event, Bolts Vision has a highlights package on their website. If you check your local listings, I’m sure it will be rebroadcast at some point.

How about some photos from the day?

Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
Alex Killorn, reunited with his beloved Jet Ski
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
It’s really the only way one can enjoy a Bud Light.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Before the onstage hug, there was a post-boat ride hug. I feel a Vinik/Kucherov road trip movie in the works.
Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
I’m Jon Cooper and I approve this photo.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
A charged up Kucherov
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
I think this makes Stamkos an honorary Russian.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
The moment I thought Hedman was going to get a beer shower courtesy of the Stanley Cup (he turned around and drank from the “mug”.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade
This says it all.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

That’s it. The off-season officially begins tomorrow in Tampa. While the players are sleeping off their hangovers, General Manager Julien BriseBois will be hard at work figuring out how to defend this title. He only has a few days before the draft and free agency start, it should be an interesting week.