TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning might have had their parade shortened by rain Monday, but the bad weather couldn’t stop the party.
For the second time in less than 10 months, the Lightning held a boat parade to celebrate winning the Stanley Cup. It is their second straight championship and third in their history (2004). The Cup was gently passed from boat to boat as the players celebrated with thousands of fans at the mouth of the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa.
“It’s a pleasure to share this with the entire Tampa Bay community and my family,” Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said. “My therapist told me I’ve got to enjoy moments. This is a moment for all of us to enjoy. This one is awesome. Last year was awesome because we were in a bubble. They’re both awesome.”
Forward Alex Killorn managed to procure a personal watercraft again and helped make sure the Cup got to each of the boats carrying players. Then Nikita Kucherov jumped on the back of the watercraft, and he and Killorn did a few laps around the river to the delight of the overflow crowd on boats and on land surrounding the Riverwalk.
As the boats traveled along the river, several of the players made sure to ride close to the bank so they could interact with fans.
Forward Pat Maroon, who won the Cup for a third consecutive season (2019 with St. Louis Blues), praised the leadership and toughness his teammates showed.
“I think this year was the hardest one by a long shot,” Maroon said. “The 56-game season … The way we battled. The way we went through adversity. The injuries. It was truly amazing. That’s why we have leaders like Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos, ‘Heddy’ (Victor Hedman), ‘Killer’ and ‘Kuch.’ They push the group. They kind of drive the bus for our team.”
Tampa Bay won the Cup on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final. It defeated the Florida Panthers in six games in the first round, the Carolina Hurricanes in five games in the second round and the New York Islanders in seven games in the semifinals.
As the boat parade ended, thunderstorms began to roll through the area, and the planned celebration at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park eventually was canceled because of rain. But that didn’t stop the players from celebrating with fans who stuck around.
Vinik, Stamkos and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner voted as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, were among those who signed autographs and took pictures. A rain-soaked Yanni Gourde slid across the stage on a pallet dolly and eventually climbed over the security railing to celebrate with the crowd.
“The people of the Tampa Bay Lightning are phenomenal,” Gourde said. “It’s a great place to have the Cup. They deserve it. We love you guys. Let’s go! We’re back to back!”
The Lightning had a boat parade Sept. 30 to celebrate winning the championship with a six-game victory against the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Cup Final.