TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup boat parade came to a close, Alex Klllorn and Steven Stamkos procured a personal watercraft and did laps around the Hillsborough River while holding up the trophy to thousands of screaming fans.
“I was lucky enough to find a Jet Ski,” Killorn said. “The fans went crazy when we went by them with the Cup. It was really cool.”
While the two forwards enjoyed the personal watercraft, other players like defenseman Zach Bogosian preferred the calmer ride of a pontoon boat while surrounded by fans in their own boats. When the parade reached the Tampa Bay Convention Center, the players showered fans with champagne as the boats congregated for a celebration similar to the Gasparilla Festival held in Tampa at the end of January.
“Who does a boat parade?” Stamkos said. “That is amazing. I think that’s the first time ever. It is so cool to be a part of. This is something you remember forever.”
From there, the players passed the Cup from boat to boat, some holding it high for the fans and others taking a drink from it. Eventually, it got to defenseman Victor Hedman, the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP, who raised the two trophies as cheers erupted from the crowd.
The scene was something defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said he will always remember.
“A lot of us came home not knowing what to expect, especially with COVID-19,” Shattenkirk said. “Today made it feel real … that we won the Stanley Cup, and we were able to see how special it was for the people of Tampa. This was so special, I had tears in my eyes all day.”
The parade was followed by a celebration at Raymond James Stadium with attendance capped at 16,000.
As owner Jeff Vinik spoke about the Lightning’s 2-1 victory against the New York Islanders in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, forward Nikita Kucherov, who scored the winning goal in that game with nine seconds left, rushed the podium and said, “This man is the best man in Tampa. The best man in America!” and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
The celebration included player introductions and video highlights from the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. There was also a congratulatory video message from ESPN broadcaster and Lightning season ticket holder Dick Vitale.
Forward Brayden Point said that even though the Lightning weren’t able to play for the Cup in front of their fans, they have enjoyed the support since returning home Tuesday from the NHL bubble in Edmonton.
“The Cup is so important to us,” Point said. “This was our end goal and our dream. A lot of guys went through a lot to get the Cup.
“We didn’t know what to expect in terms of turnout, and the amount of fans we saw today and the amount of people that were so happy for us was amazing. We are just so happy to be back home and bring the Cup to Tampa.”