NHL: How Tampa Bay Lightning Prove Florida Hockey Works

Tampa Bay Lightning Fans Celebrate Goal

Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Given the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers recent struggles, it’s easy to see why people might think the state of Florida can’t support hockey.

Now, is that thinking correct?

Probably not, at least in regards to the Lightning.

After totally renovating their arena during the summer of 2011, then adding a huge new state of the art scoreboard last offseason, the Lightning’s Tampa Bay Times Forum placed third in Stadium Journey.com’s 2013 NHL arena rankings.

The Lightning also sold out a large amount of games early last season. Heck, they boasted a sell-out streak, which dated back to the end of their 2011-12′ season. And I can promise you, other than their early April matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, it wasn’t all opposing teams fans. Sure, there were a fair share of those, but Tampa Bay fans were most prominent.

Another thing this team has going for them is viewership. Local television stations Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida announced the Lightning had their highest rated season ever in 2013. Yes, a fair share of that could be attributed to the fact it was their 20th Anniversary Season. But that shouldn’t take away from this feat, instead speaking to the undying loyalty fans displayed. Believe me, it’s not easy to watch your team start hot, just to see things go downhill from there.

While their on-ice play leaves much to be desired, the Lightning are doing plenty of things right. They have fans willing to stick around through good times and bad, something that’s extremely important when it comes to sustaining a franchise. Even though a Stanley Cup may be the only thing to squelch these questions and heated debates, I’m not ashamed to say Tampa Bay’s hockey paradise is the place for me.

 

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook and join her Google network.

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