From the back of the Closet: Tampa Bay Lightning Coaster Set

How do you celebrate making the playoffs? By keeping water rings off of your coffee table.

When you’re a collector (or hoarder) you’re always on the lookout to add to your collection.  You also find that things tend to pop up when you’re supposed to be looking for other items. Sometimes you wander into a thrift shop looking for a White Elephant gift and walk out with a new piece of memorabilia.

Case in point:

That is a “set” of genuine black leather coasters celebrating the Lightning’s 2002-03 post-season appearance. Well, it’s part of a set.  Three actual leather coasters and one random cardboard coaster featuring the current logo. It was their first time in the playoffs since 1996 and, as we all know, the 13-year anniversary present is leather (actually it’s lace,but an embroidered lace doily just doesn’t scream “hockey”). Yes, the old-school logo is just as hard to read in real life as it appears in the picture.

In 2002-03 the Lightning won the Southeast Division, beating out the Washington Capitals by one point despite losing the last two games of the season (the Caps had lost their penultimate game meaning they had no shot of catching the Lightning on the last day). The two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs and the Lightning would take the series in 6 games, storming back to win the last four games after dropping the first two at home.

Game 6 was a classic as it took 3 overtimes to decide a winner. Soon to be Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk tied the game with four minutes left in the third period. No one else would score for the next 48 minutes of game time.  Finally, Marty St. Louis roared around from behind the Washington net and went bar down over the shoulder of Olaf Kolzig for the series-winning goal. For the first time in their history, the Tampa bay Lightning advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

The Lightning would move on to face the New Jersey Devils in the next round.  The series would again be decided in triple overtime, unfortunately it was the Devils that pulled off the 2-1 victory.  They would go on to win the Stanley Cup, while the Lightning would have to wait one more season to celebrate the ultimate victory.

It was their first time in the playoffs since 1996 and, as we all know, the 13-year anniversary present is leather (actually it’s lace,but an embroidered lace doily just doesn’t scream “hockey”).To commemorate a spring that had actual playoff games instead of draft pick speculation they designed these wonderful mementos.  And I say “someone” because the manufacturer is not listed anywhere on the box or the actual coasters.  Nor can I find any information online about them, not even on eBay (if someone isn’t selling it on eBay does it actually exist?) Who made them and how many were made is a complete mystery.

There is also the mystery of why there is only the three original coasters in the set.  Did the original owner keep one? Was it destroyed in a raucous Stanley Cup celebration the next year?  Or did it just fall behind the stove and is sitting there in some random Safety Harbor kitchen for all eternity, or the next remodel? And why did they add the random Lightning bar coaster with the new logo? Did they feel guilty about only having three in the set?  So many questions.

Right now it is literally sitting in the back of my closet, but I do have plans for it.  Just like all of that other stuff in a box.

*In case you were wondering I did also find a gift for the White Elephant party - it was a Donald Trump book (Think Like a Billionaire, I believe).  Who knew that three years later that would be #56 on Amazon’s top-selling real estate books?