* Amid all the talk of the Tampa Bay Lightning having the best record in the National Hockey League and what that might–or might not–portend in another Stanley Cup run, there is, unalterably, another reality. The Lightning–in an area where baseball and football are embedded in our societal DNA–is Tampa Bay’s pre-eminent sports franchise. It’s not even close. We’ll leave it at that.
The team is successful. Every game is a sellout: 19,092 to be precise. That’s 158 in a row since 2014. The Amalie Arena vibe is cool and fan friendly. The owner, Jeff Vinik, hands out a check for $50,000 for local causes and charities at every home game. He also fronted multi millions to upgrade the arena–which wasn’t incidental to the city’s pitch to host the Republican National Convention in 2012.
Hockey in Florida: Who would have thought? The best team in the NHL: Who would think otherwise?
* A shout out to St. Petersburg’s Danielle Collins, a former Northeast High tennis player, who made it to the Grand Slam semifinals at the Australian Open.
* New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians recently announced the assistant coaches he’s bringing on: all 18 of them. It’s a reminder of the level of specialization these days. New hires include offensive quality-control, defensive quality-control, and even assistant special teams coaches, among others. No, it’s not the NFL we grew up with.