Yes, the bubble was different and the Stanley Cup was handed out more than three months later than usual, but that does not mean the Tampa Bay Lightning get an asterisk for winning arguably the hardest prize in team sports.

If one insists on an asterisk then maybe that is because this Stanley Cup was the most impressive considering the circumstances.

Let’s sum this up after the playoffs finally started following the 142-day COVID-19 pause.

On August 11th, Tampa won its first playoff game of 2020 but needed five overtimes to do it and eventually beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4 games to 1.

The Lightning got revenge after losing to Columbus in four straight last year.

On August 23rd, the Lightning lost the opener to Boston 3-2 and came back to win four in a row to capture the series in five games just like they did the previous series.

On September 7th, Tampa crushed the NY Islanders 8-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

The Lightning went on to take the series 4-2.

On September 19th, the Lightning lost the opener to the Dallas Stars 4-1 but Tampa came back to win three straight and eventually captured the Cup final in six games.

In the 6th Game on Monday (Sept 28th) the Lightning capped the run with a 2-0 triumph, holding the Stars to just 8 shots in the first two periods and 19 overall.

Tampa accomplished its second Stanley Cup title without home-ice advantage and without its inspirational captain Steven Stamkos, who played just 2:47 in the playoffs after missing 7 months with an injury.

361 days after the unforgettable season started, Tampa was on top of the hockey world, going 16-6 in the post-season and 7-0 following a loss.

The journey included playing the most overtime minutes (221:15) of any team ever in a single playoff run, coming through in the clutch with 12 one-goal wins and allowing two goals or fewer 16 times in their 22 games.

Last season, when the regular-season champion Lightning got blown out in the opening round by the Blue Jackets, there were many critics that suggested Tampa needed a coaching change.

Those critics are now hiding in a corner.

Jon Cooper, who grew up in Prince George, was rewarded for his seven seasons as the team’s head coach, fulfilling his boyhood dream by raising the Stanley Cup high above his head.

“Basically, we went from the outhouse to the penthouse,” Cooper told the media after the Lightning became the first team ever to win the Stanley Cup one year after being swept in the first round.

After winning the ultimate prize, Cooper won a University of Virginia hat postgame.

He admitted the Lightning drew inspiration from the Virginia Cavaliers, who a year after becoming the first No. 1 seed in men’s college basketball history to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, rebounded by becoming
national champions in 2019, defeating No. 3 seed Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime in the final in Minneapolis.

For various reasons, the Tampa-Dallas series was a television rating flop.

The six-game final averaged just over two million viewers (per game) in the U.S.

In Canada, Rogers Sportsnet reported that 1.081 million Canadians tuned in for Game 1 and that number dropped to just 841,000 for Game 2.

Official numbers were not released for the other four games but media reports indicated there was an average of just 1.3 million viewers for Game 6.

By the way, when Brett Connolly of Prince George and the Washington Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 for the Cup, there was an average of 2.7 million viewers in Canada.

Game 7 of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks-Boston Bruins final averaged 8.76 million.

With no fans in the stands, and low numbers watching on TV, this year’s NHL playoffs did not generate the same type of interest as most years.

However, the NHL (yes that includes the ever-popular Gary Bettman) should be applauded for just having a post-season and doing it without any positive COVID-19 tests.

And Jon Cooper and his Lightning also need to be saluted for winning under different and difficult circumstances.

They won eight in the Toronto bubble and their last eight in the Edmonton bubble leaving no doubt who the best team is.

For that, no apologies or asterisks are needed.


FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

Normalcy in 2020 at last….(NY Jets remain the Jets)

*Headline in the New York Daily News

The Washington Football Team played like a group of guys determined to make a name for themselves.

*Rob Maaddi, Associated Press

Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer, foiled an attempt by an intruder to kidnap Montana’s grandchild. So, not only is Joe a Hall of Fame QB, he’s a better grandfather than was J. Paul Getty.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The Chicago Cubs are already talking about capping capacity at 50% at Wrigley Field in 2021. 50% of capacity, or as the Miami Marlins call that “an opening day crowd.”

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

Because of the Coronavirus restrictions, only 1000 fans per day are allowed into this year’s French Open in the 35,000 seat Roland Garrus Stadium. In other words, there are plenty of good seats not available.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/

IN CASE, YOU MISSED IT:

The Baltimore Ravens may have had a home game against Kansas City, but the Chiefs quarterback made it a Mahomes game.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to [email protected]