Although I was just getting into hockey, that day’s remembered like yesterday because it cemented my love for the Lightning. Watching then-captain Dave Andreychuk raise the Cup after waiting 22 long years, and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin put on a show, was priceless.
They weren’t the only key guys, however. Ruslan Fedotenko had two goals in the final game, Khabibulin made a number of wonderful saves, and Brad Richards came through in the clutch so many times it’s hard to count.
Unfortunately, the nine years since that memorable night, haven’t been kind to Lightning fans or the team. A lockout cost them the chance to properly defend, followed by four consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs. They finally made their postseason return in 2011, but after surprising almost everyone, fell one goal short of possibly advancing to the Stanley Cup finals. Then came two straight disappointing years, the most recent of which was shortened thanks to yet another lockout (Thanks again, Gary Bettman!).
But through all that frustration and disappointment, Lightning fans still believe they will see a second championship. The team is now stock full of young talent, evidenced by their AHL affiliate appearing in both the 2012 and 2013 Calder Cup finals. Plus, veterans like Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and even Steven Stamkos know what’s needed to go far.
Looking back, one quote from alternate captain Tim Taylor stands out above the rest when describing this incredible moment. Published in Steve Yerrid’s book titled “Winning Ways: The Making of a Championship Heart”, it says “We walk together forever now. We won the Stanley Cup, and our names will always be on it.”