Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL All-Star Game
Tampa Bay Lightning fans cheer in the third period game five of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena. Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning have spent the past three seasons entertaining their fans with extended playoff runs. In 2015, they treated their fans to the first Stanley Cup final since 2004. Last year, they made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. That helped put Tampa Bay on the map as a hockey destination. Next could be an NHL All-Star Game.

Reports surfaced early Tuesday that Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning, is expected to host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game. Last hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, this event usually takes place in January. It features all of the biggest names and brightest stars on one stage. The best part: It’s not a single day affair. The weekend is jam-packed with activities for players and fans alike.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, this is an event tailor-made for their fan base. Seeing that it has grown more rabid over the years. Once an NHL afterthought, this team has risen to the top. The fans that support them night in and night out say the same thing. Like the guys in uniform, Lightning fans lay everything on the line to help their beloved Bolts win games.

With big name stars of their own, there’s no doubt the Lightning would be well-represented no matter where this game was played. Guys like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman are among the top players in the league. For them, it would be about putting on a show for the hometown crowd.

Despite falling inches short of their fourth consecutive postseason berth, Tampa Bay Lightning fans may have an opportunity of a lifetime. Hosting the NHL’s All-Star weekend will showcase the Tampa Bay area in all of its glory. It would also be a first for fans such as myself who didn’t get into hockey until after 1999. Since that was the last time, an All-Star game took place in Tampa.

The reason for these events is to grow the game? If so, then make certain the Lightning’s avid fanbase gets a chance to prove that hockey in Florida is alive and well.

In the words of the now famous “Sticks of Fire” Lightning fan support group, I BELIEVE this team and their loyal fans deserve to host the 2018 NHL All-Star game!


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