Tag Archive | "Detroit Red Wings"

$450 million sale, are sports recession-proof?


Recently, it was announced that the Golden State Warriors are to be sold for a record $450 million pending approval by the NBA Board of Governors.  This franchise, that made the playoffs only once in the past 16 seasons, is the latest example that sports may be recession-proof.

The change in ownership among professional sports teams is a carousel that can provide an organization with years of hope, tribulation or new rivalries. One of the earliest examples might be the purchase of the Boston Red Sox in 1916 for around $500,000, a purchase that initially paid off with a World Series championship in 1918.  

Shortly thereafter, the team began to struggle and the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry was born with the sale of Babe Ruth.  It was later determined that owner Harry Frazee had sold the contract of Ruth in order to finance a stage play entitled “My Lady Friends”.  Regardless, the rivalry had evolved and the Yankees would find great success with Ruth and other players acquired by the organization.

The state of Michigan has perhaps some of the richest history in sports. In terms of ownership, one of the most unique paths to ownership took place when Tom Monaghan purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1983.  

In the years leading up to the sale, Monaghan had enrolled at the University of Michigan and while still a student there borrowed $500 to purchase a small pizza store called DomiNick’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1959 along with his brother.  After the opening of three more stores, Tom traded a Volkswagon Beetle to James for his half of the ownership. 

Monaghan, a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan saw the business grow into Domino’s Pizza and that’s when the eccentric owner realized a childhood dream and purchased of the team for $53 million. The first day of spring training, Monaghan showed up in the Tigers dugout donned in a Tiger uniform and hat, ready to ‘play ball’. And play ball the Tigers did as they cake-walked through a record-setting year and went on to win the World Series in 1984.  Year later in 1992, Monaghan sold the team to another pizza guru, Mike Ilitch for $85 million.

The purchase of the Detroit Tigers became the second organization owned by Ilitch, the Little Caesar’s founder. While $85 million for the Tigers sounds like pocket change in the sports world of today, imagine Ilitch purchasing the NHL Detroit Red Wings team for $8 million in 1982; that sounds like a yard-sale price.

Fifteen years after the purchase, the Red Wings won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998 and have become one of the most successful, popular and recognized teams in sports.

Ilitch helped move the Tigers into Comerica Park in 2000 after contributing half of the $350 million required to build the stadium.  The Tigers have once again become formidable competitors and captured the American League Championship in 2006. Like Monaghan, Ilitch had a love for the Tigers and was once offered the opportunity to become a competitor for the team himself but his demands for a larger contract were never met.

Across the country in Texas, Jerry Jones became owner of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 after paying $65 million for the team. J.J. also had to absorb the cost of Texas Stadium’s leasing rights at an additional $75 million.

How is that investment paying off?

The ‘Boys with their world-famous Cowboys cheerleaders are said to be appraised at over $1 billion today after opening state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Throughout the years, the cost to purchase sports franchises has soared.  That said, many organizations still show profits, some that may come from revenue sharing with wealthier large-market teams. Success isn’t always dependent on the value of the team.

Moving south into Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays soared to the American League Championship with a young core of talented players in 2008 and although they had built a winner, the team was recently listed as the 28th wealthiest team in Major League Baseball.

In the Big Apple, the New York Knicks are considered the richest team in the NBA but the last championship season came in 1973.

Across the U.S. and Canadian border sits the wealthiest team in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs have experienced rough times and have failed to make the playoffs in the post-lockout era but is believed to make around $1.9 million per game at the Air Canada Centre – a venue they have sold out since October 2002.  

As the value of many non-sports organizations continue to plummet the general rule of thumb is that financial success tends to follow as sports stand the test of time.  The new owners of the Warriors will be greeted by crowds packing the sold-out Oracle Arena even in discouraging seasons.  

With this NBA offseason filled with LeBron James’ “The Decision” drama, Golden State has been among the most active of teams exploring the free-agent pool.  Among the new group of owners is minority Boston Celtics partner Joe Lacob.  Much like other cities that have enjoyed past success, Oakland has a long and storied history of championships with the Athletics and Raiders.  While the Warriors have only enjoyed one championship while in California the enthusiasm surrounding this deal might suggest new excitement is just beyond the horizon.  After all, both Oakland and Lacob know all about winning.

Used with permission of the author.

Cade Caldwell is an Atlanta-based sportswriter and contributor to Sports Climax.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Detroit sports legend Bob Probert dies


Detroit lost another sports legend yesterday when NHL All-Star forward and one of the league’s top enforcers, Bob Probert, died at the age of 45. Probert apparently suffered a heart attack after complaining of chest pains while out boating.

Probert, who was drafted by the Wings in the third round (46th overall) in 1983 skated in Detroit from 1985-94 before making his way to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The rugged left winger was 6-ft-3-in. and packed one of the hardest punches in the history of the game. But along with his ability to go toe-to-toe with the best of them, Probert also brought enough skill to his game to make the All-Star in 1988, a year he tallied 29 goals and 62 points although he spent 398 minutes in the penalty box.

His career stats are impressive considering his role on the teams too. His career stats include 384 points (163 goals, 221 assists) in 935 regular-season games and 3,300 penalty minutes, 5th most in NHL history.

Probert’s career hit more than a few bumps in the road though. With a laundry-list of arrests and violations over the years, his worst run-in with law officials landed him in federal prison for a three-month period when he was caught trying to smuggle cocaine over the U.S. and Canadian border. The arrest also landed him a one-year suspension from the NHL.

Back to his time on the ice, Probert, in 1988 the winger broke Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe’s record of 20 playoff point in a season when he tallied 21.

Of all of his brawls, the most famous may be his duels with friend andformer teammate Joey Kocur and his minute and a half slugfest he got into with Pittsburgh Penguin player Marty McSorley. You can see that fight here.

Mr. Probert, R.I.P. along with two other Detroit sports’ icons who have been lost recently, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych and Ernie Harwell.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Wings Babcock paying for his ‘rookie’ mistake


DETROIT, Mich. – The buzz in Detroit’s sport’s scene that is picking up steam is surrounded around Red Wings rookie jimmy howard red wingsgoaltender Jimmy Howard.Expect to hear chants of Ozzie, Ozzie! if Howard has a game even remotely close to the one he had on his home ice last night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.

A candidate for NHL rookie of the year, 26-year-old Howard has looked anything but during this second-round NHL Playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.

After a rough start in the first-round playoff series against the Coyotes, Howard buckled down and posted a shutout and a few one-goal games and his heavily-favored team took the series in seven games. Since then, Howard’s journey has been a roller-coaster ride, one that starts at the top of the track and spirals down at a high rate of speed.

Now trailing the Sharks 0-3, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is starting to look like a rookie himself.

Why would a coach with a Stanley Cup winning goalie on the roster, come into these playoffs having prepared only to play his rookie while disregarding his playoff-experienced goalie.

Chris Osgood was between the pipes and led the Red Wings to their last Holy Grail in 2008 with an outstanding 1.55 GAA and last year took the team to a Finals Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins with another impressive GAA of 2.01. Yet Ozzie has started just one game since January 27th.

Babcock now finds himself with his hands tied by handing the torch to a rookie who appears to be choking in these playoffs.

Howard has let in a few goals that his hometown media is referring to as “soft goals” but the explanation regarding those goals should include the words “Pee-Wee mistake”.

One in particular is the game-tying goal last night that all but eliminated the Red Wings in these playoffs.

Sharks rookie Logan Couture had the puck near the goal line at a near impossible angle and managed to flip the puck past the shocked and dumbfounded Howard.

If Howard was hugging the post as goalies are taught in Pee Wee hockey, it would have been impossible for that puck to go in the net and the Wings may have suddenly found themselves back in this series with the next game on home ice and a chance to tie it up at 2-2.

Detroit has a history of pulling goalies as quick as Sparky Anderson would yank his pitchers when they hovered around the 100-pitch mark. This year however is a different story with Babcock going into the playoffs prepared to play only Howard.

The timing of Osgood’s benching and absurdness of this whole ordeal has to make you wonder if there is a lot more involved with this; what is going on in the locker room?

Osgood has seen the ice for just one start since the Olympic Games in Vancouver, you know the Olympic Games where Babcock coached the Canadian Team, the one where Osgood wasn’t even given an opportunity to tryout for the team.

Since the Olympics ended and the NHL returned to play, Osgood has been implanted on the end of the bench, except for the one lone start April 4th and another game on March 3rd when Howard was yanked after letting in 4 goals on 21 shots.

At this point it would be criminal for Babcock to ask Ozzie to put on the pads and try to bail out the Red Wings like he did in the 2008 Stanley Cup winning year.

That season, Babcock yanked Dominic Hasek in favor of Osgood and weeks later, Ozzie was hoisting another cup.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax™

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It’s Time for Ozzie to Bail Out the Red Wings . . . Again


DETROIT, Mich. – After Red Wing goalie Jimmy Howard gave up a goal to Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Sami Lepisto just 29 seconds into Game 3 on Sunday, the ice tilted with the Red Wings stealing the momentum and dominating the play the rest of the period.

At the first intermission with the score deadlocked at one, Hockeytown was confident the hometown guys in red had red wings osgoodregrouped and were setting themselves up for another win. But only until the reality kicked in of what can happen when you play a rookie goaltender with no experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case it was a 4-2 loss on home ice.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard had a strong regular season ending 4th in the NHL in save percentage with .924 and 5th in GAA (2.26) but the during these playoffs, the youngster has looked lost several times with his back completely turned to the play. During that time he has given up 3, 4, and 4 goals in the first three games of the series and has his heavily-favored team in a hole.

In all, the 11 goals Howard has allowed to Phoenix in the first three games of the series marks only the fourth time in 45 series since the Wings playoff streak began in 1991 that a Wings goalie has allowed 11 goals in the first three games.

After Howard let in two softies in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Coyotes, he put the Red Wings dynasty in the challenging position of needing to win 3 out of the next 4 games to advance, and two of those games are on enemy ice.

While this rookie display of goaltending has been going on, a seasoned goaltender who has been through it all has been sitting on the Red Wing bench watching, occupying a spot he has grown way too familiar with this season.

Chris Osgood has his name engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail after winning several Stanley Cups and was actually a lot of people’s vote for the Conn Smythe MVP two years ago when the Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Red Wings would be trying to 3-peat this year if they would have given Ozzie a little more offensive support going down the stretch in last year’s finals when they lost Game 7 to the Penguins, no fault of the goaltender’s.

So when does Mike Babcock hand the reins back to Ozzie?

Now!

Without another second ticking off the clock, let the veteran Osgood know to start emotionally preparing to step between the pipes when these two teams meet again on Tuesday night.

Coach Babcock received praise for a quick roster move after Game One of this series but it’s time for this more important move. If the Red Wings want any chance of gaining the three wins they need to advance and doing it with less bumps in the road before entering the next tougher series, Babcock needs to make that move now.

It isn’t time to panic because the Red Wings are the most disciplined team as far as sticking to a plan and getting the job done; as long as their goalie gives them a chance to win. But if they need to score 4 or 5 goals every night during these playoffs, they may as well start dusting off their golf clubs right now.

This wouldn’t be the first time Ozzie bailed out the Red Wings after being benched. In 2008 when the Nashville Predators battled back to tie the opening round series at two games apiece, Dominick Hasek was pulled during Game 4 in favor of Osgood and that was the turning point of the series and playoffs.

Osgood won that series and went on to lead his Red Wings to another Stanley Cup title. In those finals, Osgood started the series with spectacular back-to-back shutouts giving his team a 2-0 advantage, one Sidney Crosby and the Penguins could never overcome.

Howard is young and looks like he may possibly be the goalie of the future for the Red Wings but the rookie has put his team in the position where they would have needed 5 goals to win on Sunday. They actually needed that same number to take game two. In that game the Wings scored 7 so earned the victory but a pattern like this is one that will surely send any team to the golf course early in mid-April.

Osgood has made himself available to the rookie for guidance but the bottom line is winning. 

I can hear the chants echoing throughout The Joe already . . . Ozzie. Ozzie! Ozzie!!

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Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax™

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Thrashers Sign Unrestricted Free Agent Defenseman Chris Chelios


An Atlanta Thrashers Media Release contributed to this article.

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Atlanta Thrashers have signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Chris Chelios, according to Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell. Chris Chelios Chicago

Chelios, 48, has appeared in 44 games with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League this season, recording 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) while ranking second in the league with a plus-35 rating.

The Chicago, Ill., native has registered 948 points (185 goals, 763 assists) and 2,891 penalty minutes in 1,644 career NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens. In a NHL-record 266 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Chelios has collected 144 points (31 goals, 113 assists) while capturing the Stanley Cup three times, once with Montreal (1986) and twice with Detroit (2002 and 2008).

In his 25-year NHL career, Chelios ranks fourth in games played, eighth in all-time assists by a defenseman, and ranks 10th among defensemen in points.

Among American-born players, he ranks first in games played, second in plus/minus (plus-352) , and third in points by a defenseman.

The 6-0, 190-pound defenseman has earned the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman three times (1989, 1993, 1996), has been named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team five times (1989, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002), and has participated in 11 NHL All-Star Games.

Chelios has represented the United States in international competition 12 times, and served as team captain at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and led the U.S. to a Silver Medal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City and Gold at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Note: Chelios was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, 40th overall, of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

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Quenneville Ducks Accountability During Post-Game


CHICAGO – Most of the “Original Six rivalry” and “young vs. old” hype that was orchestrated by the NHL to promote the Red Wings Detroit/Chicago Western Conference Finals series was laid to rest well before the final seconds mercifully ticked off the clock for Sunday’s Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks Game Four.

Not many teams in professional sports have the depth and resiliency of the Red Wings.

Playing without their Captain Nicklas Lidstrom and two of their Alternate Captains Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings still were able to take the young, inexperienced Blackhawks to school, cake-walking to a lopsided 6-1 win at the United Center in Chicago.

Instead of pointing fingers at his young players and demanding accountability to light a spark before the next game, Coach Joel Quenneville instead showed the same immaturity as his players and took the gutless route of blaming a referee for his team’s lackluster performance.

“Worst call in the history of sports at the end of the second period,” said the mentally-drained coach during his obligatory post-game press conference. “They [the refs] ruined a great hockey game. It was that call. I have never seen anything like it”.

Really. Haven’t seen anything like it?

How about the bad call just 48 hours earlier when a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty was called on Niklas Kronwall after he legally laid out Blackhawk Martin Havlat, knocking him into opening faceoff 2010?

The call on Kronwall affected the game. It handed a five-minute power play to the Blackhawks and sent Kronwall to the locker room early in the game. In case you missed it, the call Quennville is referring to is a two-minute minor that was called at the end of the period.

It was the play when several players congregated with what the announcers like to refer to as “a little face-washing”. It was the play where Blackhawks star Patrick Kane glided in and speared a Red Wing player in the back, was scolded by a referee but was let off the hook.

I agree that the referees made a mistake; the call should have been on Kane but either way the referees were doing what they need to do in a game where things could explode any minute; they were keeping control of the game and calling it tight. It is Quenneville’s job to know that and to communicate that to his players so they don’t self-implode like they did on Sunday.

With immature comments like Quenneville made during his post-game press conference, it’s confirms that the Blackhawks organization lacks leadership in the locker room and behind the bench.

Instead of taking part of the blame and demanding accountability from his players, Quenneville offered his youngsters a lame excuse for the loss, a two-minute minor penalty called midway through the game. In addition to accountability, adjustments need to be made between periods and game plans need tweaking throughout a series, things Quenneville has been unable to do and his frustration shows that.

A call may possibly have bearing on the outcome of an evenly-played game like the “too-many men on the ice” penalty that was called in the final minutes of a classic Boston Bruins/Montreal Canadians Finals game during the late 70’s. That game was tied at the time of the call and Montreal scored and went on to win that contest and the series.

This game however was much different then that night in Montreal. This contest was an embarrassing blowout and the ice was tilted towards the Blackhakwks goal from the opening faceoff. Quenneville’s Blackhawks lost because they were dominated, outclassed and outskated by older but wiser legs.

You have to sense ex-Red Wing coach Scotty Bowman hovering over Quenneville and the Blackhawks as they self-destruct during the most crucial time of the season.

Bowman, who was behind the Montreal bench in that late 70’s match-up against the Bruins, had a much different style than Quennville’s. Bowman demanded accountability from his players and went as far as trading team sniper Dino Ciccarelli and assigning forward Sergei Federov to play defense until he learned to be a two-way player.

The Blackhawks are deservingly the talk of the NHL this year after creating the youngest roster in the league, setting franchise records during the season and carrying that momentum into the playoffs. They defeated the Calgary Flames and upset the #3 seed Vancouver Canucks to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Detroit.

Young rosters can keep a locker room loose but being too wet behind the ears can also have disadvantages like we are seeing in this series.

None of their players, or Coach Quenneville for that matter, were capable of stepping up and calming down the raucous bunch of youths as the team was called for 13 minor penalties (nine of them for roughing) and two players were sent to the showers early–Kris Versteeg (10-minute misconduct) and Ben Eager (two 10-minute misconducts and a game misconduct).

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you cannot give a team like the Red Wings a bunch of power play opportunities and expect to steal another win.

While Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Draper watched from the sidelines, several of the Red Wings stepped up closing the holes they had left in the roster.

Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg each emerged from scoring droughts netting two goals each while Valtteri Filppula, playing in Datsyuk’s spot, scored his 1st of the playoffs and set up both of Hossa’s goals.

At times the game looked reminiscent of the first two games of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like those contests, Detroit glided around the ice at will, uncontested, sharing the puck like a passing drill until someone felt like firing a shot. Their puck control dominance tamed the sold-out United Center crowd and took the fans right out of the game.

Multi-million dollar UFA signee Cristobal Huet started his first playoff game since 2008 and was chased after giving up the fourth Red Wing goal. He was replaced by a kid named Corey Crawford who looks so young, I expected the referees to ask for signed parental permission for him to play in the game.

The first shot the youngster faced beat him clean and rang off two goalposts before he, like Huet, fell victim to the dominate Red Wings. Crawford gave up one goal on 7 shots before being replaced by Huet at the start of the 3rd period.

The Blackhawks looked totally lost throughout the game. From Coach Joel Quenneville looking stunned behind the bench to Patrick Kane (one SOG and 3 giveaways) to their 20-year-old captain Jonathon Toews, the NHL’s youngest captain who wasn’t even born when Red Wing Chris Chelios began playing in the NHL.

Chelios, the Chicago native, saw action Sunday for the first time in this Original Six series skating 6 shifts for 4:37 minutes of ice time. He was greeted with a chorus of boos whenever he touched the puck-a little left-over bitterness for him leaving the Windy City to play for the rival Red Wings a decade ago.

For formality purposes, Game Five will be in Detroit on Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s hope if there is a Red Wing vs. Penguins rematch, it can live up to whatever hype the NHL creates for it, unlike this Conference Finals dud.

Otherwise NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be looking at another Stanley Cup Finals beaten in the Neilson Ratings by a cartoon with a guy named Sponge Bob.

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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Hollywood Gave NHL its Mojo back in 2008


LOS ANGELES – After years of hiding in the shadows of the rival NBA, the NHL made its way back into the ratings and into Hollywood’s spotlight after the last season’s playoffs. Just days after the Red Wings clinched the finals, the Stanley Cup made a trip down the red carpet and appeared on several popular television shows including “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Since the notorious lockout season, there have been many questions surrounding the lack of marketing and publicity for the NHL. Ratings had dipped to historic lows while some national sports commentators grew apathetic to the league and its stars, until last year’s dream finals match-up between the Red Wings and Penguins.

The rating numbers reported by NBC for the prime time finals indicated the NHL was on the way back and the league used that momentum to kick their marketing and publicity into high gear as soon as the finals were over. After the Red Wings returned home with the Cup and completed their photo day, they gained an onslaught of attention from the national media and publicity soared.

Chris Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom helped make that happen. Still battered from a long season and finals series, they gratiously accepted an invitation to fly to L.A. and appeared with the Stanley Cup.

After their “Sexy Back” dance performance on  Leno’s show, we shouldn’t expect Osgood and Lidstrom to  make it to “Dancing With the Stars,” but their representing the NHL and Red Wings that night in front of millions of coast-to-coast viewers was exposure the league desperately needed.

While on the same West Coast trip, Osgood and Stanley were again in the spotlight when they joined some of Hollywood’s stars including Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba and Verne Troyer for a walk down the red carpet at the opening premiere for the hockey-related comedy “The Love Guru.”

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Myers grew up an avid Maple Leaf fan and getting exposure from the Austin Power’s star may have helped the NHL “get its mojo back.” In addition to Myers, Hollywood has a long list of celebrities who love the game including producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Armageddon, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Verne Troyer who portrayed Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies to name a few.

This year, the NHL should take their relationship with Hollywood to the next level and continue to include these stars in their marketing plan. Hollywood stars have helped promote other leagues like the NFL and NBA and there is a lot to gain by inviting them to functions put on by the league.

Every year there are stories about the trips Stanley makes throughout the summer. Tales are about the far away countries visited or the occasional strip club stop. Those journeys do get attention, but that exposure is minimal compared to the exposure the league gained by these Hollywood trips.

The NBA promotes their relationships with celebrity fans including Jack Nicholson and Ashton Kutcher. If the NHL continues to pair Hollywood with their sport in 2008-09, what celeb might be sitting on the glass during the next Stanley Cup playoffs?

Copyright © 2008 – Sports Climax

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Red Wings/Avs 1997 Brawl


 

Mccarty Lemieux Fight

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Hey NHL, Hats off to Expansion Hockey!


With the constant buzz about the NHL expanding their league to places like Las Vegas, Nevada, I was reminded about Hat Tricka humorous incident that occurred in Tampa Bay during their first ever NHL hockey game.

I was living in Central Florida when the Tampa Bay Lightning was franchised under the direction of Phil Esposito with the support of Japanese investors.

Originally from Detroit and brought up an avid hockey fan, I was salivating for NHL hockey so I snagged a few tickets for the inaugural game; the Lightning against the original six Chicago Black Hawks on October 7, 1992 at Expo Hall.

Expo Hall was an arena located at the State Fairgrounds and was normally used for rodeos and tractor pulls but this was NHL expansion hockey so even this makeshift arena could not stop many of us fans from filling it up.

After driving through a muddy bumpy dirt parking area, following the painted plywood parking signs, I made my way into Expo Hall.

The referees called more penalties than I have ever seen in a game allowing the Lightning to live on the power play. The Lightning went on to win the game 7-3 with forward Chris Kontos scoring the first hat trick in Lightning history.

Hat trick!

Where are the hats?

After several seconds, a lone hat, a worn-out looking baseball cap, came floating down like a feather in the wind, gliding to a smooth landing onto the surface of the ice.

With tens of thousands of fans in the seats, we usually never know what loyal die hard sacrifices his hat . . . but this night was an exception. The hat-tosser was the fan, one section over, who was being escorted out of the arena by security personnel for littering debris on the ice.

The innocent man pleaded, trying to explain the tradition, but these dedicated security personnel would have no part of this “radical, rule-breaking” fan and continued tugging the man by the arms, leading him up the stairs.

After watching for several seconds, a few nearby fans rushed to the fan’s aid, trying to help explain the tradition to no avail. Finally, a nearby security guard rushed over and saved the fan from expulsion. The disgruntled fan was allowed back to his seat bringing laughter and a huge ovation from those of us familiar with the game.

Since this incident 16 long years ago, Tampa has evolved into a city that loves hockey. A city that proudly hangs their Stanley Cup champion flag from the rafters of their current home, the Ice Palace, the home to many hat-tossing loyalists who have gotten to know and love the game.

So viva Las Vegas . . . “Hats off” to expansion hockey!

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Bob Probert & Marty McSorley Two-Minute Slugfest


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