On Tuesday the Toronto Raptors shared a time-lapse video of their court being installed in Amalie Arena:
Our home away from home. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/23T9wjUtzv— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 15, 2020
For the next few months, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to share their building with a new roommate. Just to catch you up in case you missed the news - due to the fact that the U.S./Canadian border is all but closed, the Raptors (the NBA’s only team based in Canada) relocated to Tampa to begin the season. The first pre-season game is set to take place on Friday as the Miami Heat come to town.
Just before Christmas (on Wednesday the 23rd) the Raptors open up their regular season against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. From then until March 2nd (the furthest out the NBA has scheduled) Toronto will play 17 games at Amalie Arena. In an unique quirk (the first of many, I’m sure) they will be in the midst of a five-game “homestand” when the NHL is rumored to be beginning their season. They will be playing every other night from Thursday January 14th until Friday January 22nd.
It will be interesting to see if the Lightning begin the season on the road that week or if the arena crew is going to be busy flipping between an ice rink and a basketball court. That also begs the question if the Toronto arena crew, or another crew experienced in swapping out playing surfaces, will be brought in or if the usual crew at Amalie are able to do it. Amalie/The Ice Palace has hosted basketball games and tournaments before, but it’s usually when the Lightning are away or on a break and the rink/court conversion doesn’t have to be repeated.
With the NHL not planning on having fans in the building to begin the year, it’s not imperative that the Lightning begin the season at home, since no one but staff will be around to see a Stanley Cup banner raised to the rafters. Do the Lightning still raise the banner in front of empty seats or do they wait until later in the season when fans might return to the building? Yet another wrinkle that they need to iron out in what promises to be an interesting season.
Speaking of fans, the NBA is allowing fans to attend their games as long as local health ordinances permit it. Since Florida in general, and Tampa in particular, doesn’t have specific guidelines preventing it, the Raptors are planning on allowing about 3,800 fans to attend home games. Additional safety measures will be in place, namely that no seats will be sold within 30 feet of the court. Fans will be subject to social distancing, will have to be masked while in the building and undergo a health screening as they enter the building.
One would assume that the NHL will be following the outcome closely in Tampa and other shared buildings to see if they might be able to follow suit and allow fans to attend games at some point later in the season.
Orlando Magic fans can look forward to seeing their team on January 31st. If you’re planning on being a Raptors fan while they’re in town, follow their exploits on our SBNation sister site - Raptors HQ.
Yesterday’s Top 25 Under 25 was another defenseman, Erik Cernak. [Raw Charge]
If I had to describe Cernak’s game in one word, I would use “Smothering.” He’s so good at blocking off lanes at the defensive blue line, forming that second layer of defense to absorb the puck to move it where the opponents don’t want, and putting a blanket over attacks with effective stick and body work along the boards. He’s smothering.
Tracey posted her first Orlando Solar Bears recap of the season. Things didn’t get off to the greatest start as they lost to the Florida Everblades. Oh, and a certain rookie had a rough debut. [Raw Charge]
Orlando found themselves at a disadvantage midway through the second period. Making his first North American appearance, defenseman Dmitry Semykin was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head after an open ice hit on Florida’s Lukas Craggs, putting the Everblades on a 5 minute power play.
The Solar Bears made yet another roster move as they signed former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, Matt Spencer. The blueliner was traded from the Tampa organization last season for Devante Stephens, who is also currently on the OSB roster. [Orlando Solar Bears]
Steven Stamkos called into NHL Tonight and talked about his rehab, the Stanley Cup celebration and other various hockey-related topics. [NHL.com]
Captain Stamkos was the subject of a question in Joe Smith’s mailbag over at The Athletic. Namely, what is the progress on his rehab? Stamkos himself also alluded to it in the video above when he mentioned that a group of players continues to work out in Tampa. Smith also answers questions about line-up rotations, the new divisional alignment and the possibility of some folks in the Tampa Bay area not being able to watch games. [The Athletic]
You have to imagine the team hopes there could be agreements made between Sinclair and other streaming/cable providers so more fans can see their games. As of right now, it does seem like fans who have Frontier for cable or try to stream via YouTube TV (like I did in playoffs) are going to have issues watching Lightning games. There’s still time for an agreement to come together, but I can totally understand why it’s a frustrating situation for fans.
There is a scenario where the Lightning could face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final. If that amazing moment happens, could the Lightning face a team that succeeded by emulating the Stanley Cup champions (as well as old friend, Zach Bogosian)? [TSN]
It was back in 2016, when Dubas and Keefe were still general manager and head coach, respectively, of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, that Keefe first picked Cooper’s brain about going with an extra blueliner.
Cooper used the strategy to great effect in 2011-12 while guiding the Norfolk Admirals to a Calder Cup title, and kept it in his coaching repertoire, using it during the Lightning’s run to a Cup Final appearance in 2014-15.
Keep wearing your mask, actual NHL hockey could be back as soon as a month from now.