Ranking the 5 Most Unbelievable Moments in Tampa Bay Lightning History
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Founded as part of the NHL’s 1992-93 expansion, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had no shortage of unbelievable moments. There have been many ups and downs in the Lightning’s 20 years of history, but some of these moments stand out from the rest.
The franchise has been a fixture in the Eastern Conference and have provided fans with some very memorable moments.
Here are five of the most unbelievable moments in the Bolts’ history.
Honorable Mention: Attendance Record
Anyone from a warm climate has heard the argument that hockey can’t survive or even doesn’t belong in warm places. However, on October 9, 1993, the Lightning and Florida Panthers met up for a historic night. The game set an NHL single-game attendance record with 27,227 fans.
While the result wasn’t positive for the Bolts—a 2-0 loss—that record is still intact. The team moved to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in 1996, which holds 19,500. Last season, the Lightning averaged 19,055 fans per home game—eighth in the NHL.
5. Manon Rheaume Debut
Tampa Bay wasted no time in making a presence in professional sports. On Sept. 23, 1992, Manon Rheaume made her NHL debut in a preseason contest against the St. Louis Blues. Rheaume became the first woman to ever play in any of the four major North American sports leagues.
Then-general manager Phil Esposito met Rheaume before the 1992 NHL draft, as she worked for a television station in Canada. Her debut in the NHL created an opportunity for women’s hockey that has caused significant growth in the sport of the last 20 years.
The Manon Rheaume Foundation has led the way.
Though she never played in the regular season in the NHL, her impact can’t be overlooked.
4. 1999 NHL All-Star Game
A sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 people watched the 49th NHL All-Star Game hosted by Tampa Bay in 1999. The ASG format had a different format then with Team World against Team North America.
Some notable All-Stars that season were Rob Blake, Wendel Clark, Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Dominik Hasek. Team North America beat Team World 8-6, led by Mike Modano’s four-point night.
Some guy named Wayne Gretzky was also a part of the festivities. It was the last All-Star Game for the “Great One”. He recorded three points and took home his third MVP award—another great moment in hockey history rooted in Tampa Bay.
3. The Heartbreak
Though it ended bitterly, the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs provided one of the most unforgettable experiences for Lightning fans. The Bolts entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed pitted against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay fell behind three games to one, but outscored the Penguins 13-4 in the next three games to steal the series.
After sweeping the Washington Capitals in the next round, the Lightning met up with the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Bolts' offense had been on fire, scoring five goals in four of the first six games of the series. Game 7 saw all the magic come to an end, as the Bolts dropped a 1-0 decision to the Bruins.
That heartbreak is one of the most unbelievable moments in Lightning history
2. Martin St. Louis Plays Hero
Wipe your eyes and prepare to smile, as the No. 2 most unforgettable moment will get you jumping out of your seat. It’s June 5, 2004, and the Lightning trail the Calgary Flames three games to two in the Stanley Cup Final. The Stanley Cup is out and ready to be given away, but not so fast.
Tied at two and just 33 seconds into the second overtime, Martin St. Louis takes a rebound and puts it past Miikka Kiprusoff to send the series back to Tampa Bay for the decisive Game 7.
If you need to relive this moment, feel free to replay the video again and again—like I did.
1. Ruslan Fedotenko Brings It Home
The most unforgettable moment in Lightning history could be nothing else but the hoisting of the Stanley Cup. It wasn’t just the accomplishment, but the team, that made this moment unforgettable.
Ruslan Fedotenko had 39 points in 77 regular-season games in 2003-04. But he picked up 14 points, including 12 goals, in the postseason. Two of those 12 came in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final giving the Lightning its only Stanley Cup in team history.
It was also the only Stanley Cup of Captain Dave Andreychuk’s 23-year career and the most unbelievable moment in Tampa Bay Lightning history.