The other day, social media reminded me that a year ago I was sitting in a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden. While in real life it might seem like a decade has passed, it was only a calendar year ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were playing the Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm, Sweden. The two teams took part in the annual Global Series that the NHL uses to spread their brand throughout Europe. For both teams it was a bit of a turning point in their seasons.
The Lightning won both games, only the second time in the young season where they won back-to-back games and seemed to right their ship a little after a back-and-forth start. They managed to put together a stretch of six wins in eight games and started to climb back into contention. After the season, several players on the team credited the long (distance wise) trip as a point in the season where they came together as a team.
For Buffalo it was the opposite story. After jumping out to an 8-1 start to the season, the trip to Sweden caught them in the midst of a bit of a tail-slide. They had lost the three games prior to the trip, and would lose six in a row overall. They never really recovered and finished the season out of the expanded playoffs.
Personally, it was a highlight of the season for me. Somehow I managed to convince my wife (who is not a hockey fan) that a trip to Stochkolm in early November was something that we should do, and oh, by the way, why not go to a hockey game while we were out there? She agreed because she’s cool like that and we spent a somewhat rainy week exploring the city.
Planning the trip was rather easy. Buying the tickets a little tougher since the official ticket site was in Swedish. Thanks to Google Translate and the fact that ticket sites are pretty much the same all across the world I was able to get two tickets to the first game. To this day I’m not 100% sure how much I spent, but it was worth it.
It was great to see folks wearing Lightning gear in a city other than Tampa. As a Tampa expat, I’m somewhat used to being the only person in a given geographic area wearing the blue and white so seeing the lightning bolt logo in random bars and other tourist spots was just cool. Also, we got to meet up with a fellow Raw Charge writer, Igor.
Ericsson Globe Arena was a unique building to watch a game in as well since it’s well. a globe. Imagine seeing hockey inside a building shaped like the iconic Spaceship Earth building at Epcot and that’s what Globe Arena was like - and very red inside.
Could Tampa be a hub city for NHL play next season? With the league seemingly still trying to start the season on January 1st, the possibility of regional hubs has been floated. Due to its warmer climate and the proximity of hotels to the arena, Tampa could serve as a gathering spot for the southeastern teams in the league. [Tampa Bay Times]
“In terms of the boxes that need to be checked and the things that we’re looking for, certainly Tampa is an attractive possibility on a host of levels, including the fact that I think players would enjoy Tampa as a base for operations as opposed to some other cities,” Daly said.
“Certainly, if we went that direction (for hub cities) — and I’m not suggesting that we’re going that direction — but if we end up deciding to go that direction, certainly Tampa would be strongly considered.”
The new and improved Stanley Cup (because the 2019-20 Lightning names are inscribed on it it) continues it’s winter tour of the Tampa area, making a stop at the Clearwater Aquarium. [NHL.com]
Around the league
One of the genuine best moments of the 2020 NHL draft involved the Ottawa Senators having Alex Trebek announce their first round pick. Sadly, the iconic gameshow host passed away on Sunday. The player who’s name Mr. Trebek read (in the form of a question of course) was Tim Stutzle. The youngster expressed his condolances.
Howard Meeker, a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Toronto Maple Leafs and well known broadcaster passed away Sunday. [The Toronto Sun]
Meeker became famous for his use of the new telestrator (“I said a prayer every night to thank it for saving my butt”) and his chirpy commands for the tape operator to speed up, rewind, slow down or freeze the highlight.
“My producers went nuts when I said it and he would get mad at the director,” Meeker said. “The tape would always break.”
The NHL Network is rolling through it’s annual “#NHLTopPlayers” series. On Sunday it was the Top 20 Wings in the league. Stanley Cup champion Nikita Kucherov was ranked third on their list trailing only Boston’s David Pastrnak and New York’s Artemi Panarin. Pretty good company. [NHL.com]
Kucherov won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 2018-19, when he scored 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), the most in one season since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) for the Penguins in 1995-96. In 68 games last season, Kucherov scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) and was plus-26 before leading the NHL with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 postseason games and helping the Lightning win the Stanley Cup. The right wing ranks second in the NHL with 398 points (153 goals, 245 assists) in 304 games during the past four seasons, behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (421).
It’s the start of another week, folks. That means we’re inching closer to hockey returning. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and be kind to people.