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Wet, wild celebration caps Bolts’ Stanley Cup repeat

Brian Hartz

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and thousands of fans celebrated the team's second consecutive Stanley Cup championship with a boat parade on Monday. Screen grab from Fox 13 News.

Lord Stanley’s Mug is a little worse for wear following Monday’s boat parade on the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, an event that saw thousands of fans throng the Riverwalk to get a glimpse of their beloved Tampa Bay Lightning, who last week defeated the Montreal Canadiens, four games to one, in the Stanley Cup Finals to repeat as NHL champions.

Boat parades along the Hillsborough River have become commonplace over the past year, with the Bolts starting the tradition in 2020 as a socially distant way to celebrate their Stanley Cup win over the Dallas Stars amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed suit in February with a now-legendary aquatic party that featured the Vince Lombardi trophy being hurled from boat to boat and superstar quarterback Tom Brady reeling from the effects of too much avocado tequila, according to his Twitter feed.

Monday’s soiree was also a rowdy one and left the Stanley Cup in a state of disrepair. In photos posted on social media, the top bowl of the oldest trophy in professional sports appears to be dented and warped. Forward Pat Maroon is seen holding the busted-up Cup but it’s unclear how and when the trophy was damaged.

In an ironic twist, the Stanley Cup will be sent to Montreal for repairs before it embarks on its traditional summer “tour,” which will see each member of the championship team get to spend a day with the iconic prize.

The offseason joy could be bittersweet, though, because it will be tough for the Lightning to keep their core roster together given the constraints of the NHL’s salary cap system, as well as the upcoming expansion draft that will allow the league’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, to pluck top players from each existing club. Through a stroke of what seemed bad luck at the time, the Bolts were able to stay under the cap by deferring the salary of star forward Nikita Kucherov, whose hip surgery caused him to miss the entire regular season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and thousands of fans celebrated the team’s second consecutive Stanley Cup championship with a boat parade on Monday. Screen grab from Fox 13 News.

Kucherov, of course, would return for the playoffs and ignite a storm of controversy with his shirtless, drunken press conference in which he hurled insults at Montreal fans and Las Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Vezina Trophy, the award that goes to the league’s top goalie during the regular season – beating out Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was the runner-up for the honor but then took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player.

“They gave it to, whatever the guy, in Vegas,” Kucherov said, adding, for good measure, that the voters’ decision was “No. 1 bulls–t.”

In an interview with NHL.com prior to the Lightning’s triumph over the Canadiens, head coach Jon Cooper acknowledged the stark realities and difficult choices that await the champs.

“We don’t know what our team is going to look like next year and if we’re all going to be together again,” Cooper said. “There’s some crazy circumstances that had to happen for this team to stay together. I know these guys understand that. They know that. And they’re well aware of what they can cement to themselves if they can somehow get one more win. It’s been unbelievable to be a part of.”

Unbelievable and unforgettable. Savor the moment, Bolts fans.

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