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Lightning’s success generates all too much silence in the Tampa Bay sports media

There’s a outspoken and upset Florida Panthers fan who voiced their discontent with the Panthers organization in a post on Reddit’s hockey community. A mix of words invoked nostalgia and made me upset in my own fashion.

[…] At the start, things looked great. The team had great players in Scott Mellanby and John Vanbiesbrouck, took a Cinderella trip to the Finals which got all of Miami absolutely BUZZING in 1996, started a notable fan tradition of throwing rats, acquired a superstar in Pavel Bure, acquired future superstars Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo, had very great and notable players pass through here… […]

Ah, 1996! Yes, the Florida Panthers looked upright and had a future optimism shown in only their third season of play in the National Hockey Lague. But ’96 didn’t show a dim picture on the other coast of Florida. No, no, the 1995-96 Tampa Bay Lightning did something foreign in the Tampa Bay metroplex in the sporting sense of the term: They were a pro team that made the playoffs. It was the first time in 13 years that a top-level professional franchise in the Bay area had done that [author note: this isn’t an attempt to truly look pat the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team; soccer is not traditionally pitched as a top-four major sports league in the United States.] It was also the Lightning’s first-ever playoff appearance.

There was a sense of optimism and hope invoked in the local press coverage from WTVT, WFLA, WTSP, and WFTS. The St. Peterburg Times and Tampa Tribune did it too: The Tampa Bay Lightning was the sports team in Tampa Bay, and they were the entity to rally around. Brian Bradley, Mikael Andersson, Petr Klima, Paul Ysebaert;  with the future (or so it seemed at the time) franchise ties to Roman Hamrlik, Chris Gratton, Jason Weimer, and Rob Zamuer. All these (and so many more names that I’ve forgotten off the top of my head) and the last line of defense, the stalwart in goal #93 Darren Puppa.

The playoffs! Such a rare feat in this burg was being embraced by a local team and that generated a degree of local pride for sports fans. It was something accomplished by Tampa Bay and invoked such a good vibe, even if the Bolts were a one-and-done team in the 1996 NHL Playoffs  (the Philadelphia Flyers bounced the Bolts in the first round). Contention was such a foreign term and it was finally translated! Yessir! Yessir!

It seems foreign now, doesn’t it? No, I don’t mean contention. I’ve already written about that for the Bolts before this season. The Lightning themselves have proven it, night in and night out, through 76 games and the feats achieved.

I’m talking about coverage and the lack thereof from the traditional media people in town. There is no buzz. It’s not a priority. It’s filler.

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