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From Jodi Kaufman: Stay calm, eat your steak and relish this time Tampa Bay Lightning fans





by Jodi Kaufman | @JodiKaufman22 | Like us on Facebook
September 20, 2021

TAMPA – Life is short. The life of hockey greatness is much shorter in comparison.

Remember this time. Savor it. Relish it. Appreciate the heck out of it, while looking forward to a brand-new season.

Winning a Stanley Cup is extremely difficult. The odds of winning back-to-back are rare. To win three in less than 20 years is quite a feat (2004, 2020, 2021). The Red Wings had 25 consecutive playoff appearances and won four Cups. In the Lightning’s 28 seasons, the consecutive playoff appearance steak is four (twice). They have made the playoffs 13 times in franchise history.

One of the NBC analysts commented on the fans strolling out of Amalie Arena after winning Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t say it outright (spoiled?), but the wording and the slight smile was enough.

Fans strolled. The video didn’t show raucous, exuberant celebration, but this is fine. The team was focused. At that time, the job wasn’t complete.

Perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets sweep was still front and center in fans’ thoughts. How can it not be when still mentioned by analysts frequently (ironically, my mention)?

Or, the fans were trying not to get too high. Not too low after a loss either; Andrei Vasilevskiy hates to lose two consecutively games. Wins are great, but follow the players’ lead and wait for a series win.

Ever see the scene in “Fever Pitch” where Jimmy Fallon’s character and friends are in a restaurant visibly upset over a Red Sox loss? Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon are nearby calmly eating steak and sharing a few laughs. They just can’t believe that the players are not as emotional as the fans, until Fallon’s character figures it out. Not too high, not too low.

Could it be “act like you’ve been there before”? Why yes, yes, we have, despite the naysayers saying winning in a bubble doesn’t count. Place an asterisk by the Cup winner of 2020, they say.

And the next season, despite other teams being over the salary cap as well, they also say that the Lightning still didn’t earn the Cup because, Nikita Kucherov supposedly sacrificed his entire regular playing season and went under the knife in some diabolical plot to return in order to magically win another Cup. Number one bullshit, right Kuch?

Younger players are reminded to savor the journey and the Cup because, they are told, you don’t know if you’ll be holding that silver chalice above your head in your career again. Some of the 2004 players talked about this. They were so young and didn’t really realize the odds of being back in that position again. It’s a reason why Corey Perry is still trying to get back there.

Cooper was quoted as saying that it’s like the last day of school. Teams change, though memories do last.

And this coming season? It’s the process over the outcome, which is another Coop quote. “You can’t think about the outcome. You just got to believe in your process. Whatever happens, that’ll all take care of itself.”

Remain calm and eat your steak.

There are now 32 teams this season. That’s a lot of competition. We know the drill: salary cap and parity.

Just look at Toronto’s 54-year-old Cup drought, having last won it in 1967. Even those Lightning fans who went through the lean years and the dysfunctional era of the “Cowboy” owners have seen at least two Lightning Stanley Cup winning seasons. We are a fortunate bunch indeed.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 1992-1993 inaugural season did not come with the generous draft that is available to today’s expansion teams (but because of it, lean years lead to draft picks like Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman). Even so, a fan born in 1992 has witnessed three Cups in their 29-year lifetime.

With all that said, appreciate this time in Lightning history with hope for this coming season. The talent and culture are still here.

Stay calm and eat your steak. Believe in the process.

Ready to stroll back in? There’s much to appreciate. Much to savor. But if they mention that Blue Jackets series one more time……

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