Lightning raise 2020-21 championship banner prior to season opener

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TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning raised their second straight Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters at Amalie Arena in front of a capacity crowd prior to opening the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

The Lightning unveiled their banner for the 2020 Stanley Cup championship last season on Jan. 13, opening night against the Chicago Blackhawks, but they didn’t raise it fully to the rafters until March 13, when fans were allowed back in the building.

“Last year, the banner sat kind of quarter-raised waiting for some fans to get into the building,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday morning. “Well, the banner raising is for the fans, and that’s something they should take pride in because they’ve been with us through this whole process. Whether it was 300-plus sellouts to the pandemic to coming back in the playoffs, it’s almost like the end of a chapter. The book was written and the banner raising is one last this is what we did and thank you, and then it starts a new season. As I said, the banner raising is for the fans.”

Paul Kennedy, the studio host for the Lightning television broadcasts, was the emcee.

“And they say that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice,” Kennedy said to a rousing ovation.

He detailed the Lightning’s playoff run from last season, defeating the Florida Panthers in six games, the Carolina Hurricanes in five games, the New York Islanders in seven games, and the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It was a run showcased by four straight series-clinching shutout performances by the Conn Smythe Award-winning, the most valuable player of the playoffs, the incomparable Andrei Vasilevskiy,” Kenney said. “All bringing the story to a finish, keeping the most coveted trophy in all of sports right here in Tampa Bay.”

Fans started to chant “Vasy, Vasy, Vasy” for the Lightning goalie as Kennedy paused before Hockey Hall of Fame vice president and Keeper of the Cup Phil Pritchard brought out the Stanley Cup, carrying it as he walked a blue carpet stretching from the Zamboni entrance to a table in front of the home goal.

Video: PIT@TBL: Lightning players introduced ahead of game 1

The coaches were introduced, with Cooper receiving a loud ovation and fans yelling, “Cooooop.”

Public address announcer Paul Porter then introduced the Lightning players, who spread around the center ice face-off circle one by one. 

Vasilevskiy received the loudest ovation.

The players made their way from the circle toward the face-off circle near where the banner was waiting to be unfurled and raised.

It appeared through a fog of smoke, with 2020-21 written in blue across white striping at the top, STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS and the lightning bolt logo in white with the blue background underneath.

It’s a match to the 2019-20 Stanley Cup championship banner

The players stood nearby watching it go up.

Kennedy came back on and announced the conclusion of the ceremony. Right then, the Penguins came onto the ice to a quick chorus of boos. 

A pump-up video narrated by professional wrestler and Tampa resident Titus O’Neil speaking about turning the page to a new chapter, to this season, to an attempt to win the Stanley Cup played as crews cleaned up from the ceremony and the Penguins’ starting players stood at their blue line waiting for the national anthem.

Video: PIT@TBL: The Lightning season kicks off with anthem

The Lightning starters eventually lined up on their blue line. Sonya Bryson-Kirksey was introduced to sing the anthem, and then it was time to start the new season.

“You reflect a little bit as you watch it going up, you think back to the group and all of the sacrifice and hard work it took to accomplish our goal,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said prior to the game. “You just want the fanbase to enjoy that moment too. In the end, we’ve got to turn the page here. That’s a good way for our group. Obviously, we won’t forget about those moments and all that we accomplished, but we’ve got to turn the page here and start a new journey.”

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