In Their Own Words


Saturday, June 13, Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5

Chicago Blackhawks @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Amelie Arena, Tampa, FL

Tampa Bay Lightning Superfan


story by: Kyle
Brett (left) and Kyle (right) take a pic shortly after meeting

It was Friday, June 12th. The last game was a tough 2-1 loss that occurred on Wednesday June 10th. But that loss only tied up the series. After a night of hanging out with my friends, where we all were pretending to be Coach Cooper, and figure out what we needed to do to ensure a game 5 victory for the past few hours, I got home and crawled into bed. As I do almost every night, I got on my laptop, and got on my favorite site, Reddit. But of course, at this point in the season, I had to immediately go to the Tampa Bay Lightning Subreddit. Just to look for any updates on tomorrow’s game. However, as I was scrolling down the page, a post caught my eye. I had no idea what finding that post would mean for me in the next 24 hours.

There was a guy that posted something tilted “Gift of the Cup – Game 5” and out of curiosity, I had to check it out. It was a story of someone that went to the last 2 Stanley Cup Finals. The first with his brother to watch the Hawks lift the cup. He said it was an amazing experience, and decided to share that feeling with someone every year. So the following year, he took a stranger to witness the Kings lift the Cup. This year, my team was in the finals, and here he was posting in our Subreddit. He said he wanted to take a local fan to the game so they can experience it for themselves.

For a little backstory on me, I’m 24, and have been a huge Lightning fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my toy chest had a “kick Ice” sticker on it (the Lightning’s tag line for that season, not sure what year.) I remember getting to stay up super late the night before school when we won the Cup in 04, and wearing my Vinny Lecalvier Jersey that night and the following day at school. I was fortunate enough to be in high school, when the Bolts weren’t doing that great. Not fortunate enough to watch, but to get to go to almost every home game for a discount. That was also Steven Stamkos’ rookie year. Luckily for me, he was still developing, which meant I got to get some great Stamkos memorabilia for an awesome price. It fit right in with my countless autographs, bobble heads, pucks, jerseys, and the other random Lightning things I collected over the years.

Now back to the story. Once the Bolts really started to look like they had a solid playoff shot in the regular season, I started saving money. I had to go to a playoff game, because I never got to experience one in person before. But my car’s transmission went bad a little less than a month from the playoffs, so I had to get a new car. Once I read this post, I figured it was worth a shot, since I wasn’t able to go to any other playoff games. I got out of my bed, and set everything up, this is what I posted:

I’m 24 and have been watching games all my life. I have a framed Vinny Jersey on my wall. 4 jerseys, about 8 signed pucks. I have a Lightning flag covering my wall in my cube at work. I have a picture of me wearing my Vinny Jersey to school in my middle school year book. I have a piece of the 04 goal net. I have been forcing my friends to go to games for years and now they are all Bolts fans. We all play NHL on Xbox all the time together. I have a signed Mike Smith cup filled with all my stubs from the 08 season. I believe there’s about 30+ ticket stubs there and we finished second to last that year. I worship my team and people come up to me asking about advice all the time about how the team is looking because they know I know everything going on with the team.

But I’ve never been to a playoff game. Tickets are too expensive for me, so I just gather with my friends for the games. I annoy my neighbors by opening the front door and blowing my Vuvuzalea to make sure my neighborhood knows we just scored. I have boxes of memorabilia, posters everywhere and even a lightning zombie garden gnome. Never considered a chance to go to a finals game in my life.

If this is a serious post and I’m fortunate to be considered, I can provide photographic evidence of just about everything mentioned above. I also still have the 6 part Khabibulin poster the St Pete times released in 04. Let me try to find a link to that since I posted it a few days ago. I’m willing to answer any questions/provide any proof you might need OP. Thanks for posting this, amazing opportunity for a lucky fan!

Edit: here’s the 6 piece poster and some other stuff from that year

Edit 2: Here’s an album of some stuff I gathered from around the house.

Myself at work today, you can kind of get a picture of the size of the flag behind me

It took me a while to set everything up, and go through my photos to find all the stuff I linked, but what did I care? I got to show off all my Lighting stuff I had been collecting over the years, and I got to spend some time during the finals really looking at everything and remembering all the players I had met over the years collecting everything. After I posted this I spent probably the next hour refreshing my browser hoping that the person who posted it was not only serious, but possibly considered bringing me to the finals. After no response I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up and checked my phone. I had 1 new message. A guy named Brett was posting from the “Gift of the Cup” Reddit account.

Clearly you’re a superfan! I have a few questions for you. How would you react if they lose? 2. Can you be downtown at 5pm to meet up, talk some hockey, get to know each other a little before heading over to the game? 3. Are you a good sport with opposing team fans? -Brett.

I couldn’t believe it. I had to remind him about my post mentioning the 08-09 season. One of the worst in franchise history, and also the year that I went to almost every single home game. I was used to watching my teams lose, especially since the only other professional sports I follow is the Orlando Magic. I also had friends who were from Pittsburg and Montreal. My girlfriend is also from Philadelphia. I’m somewhat quiet, and I’m used to watching games with opposing fans, so I knew I’d have no issue with opposing team fans in the finals.

We set everything up, and I drove to the Hilton in Tampa. Brett texted me, saying he chose 2 other people to come with us, because they had a great response for deserving to go to the cup. It was kind of strange meeting up with some people I had never met before, but I’m a pretty big guy, and we were meeting in public. I told myself if anything seems off, at least I’m downtown and can attend the official watch party. But I showed up at the bar first and sent a text to everyone that I’m here.

Then the other chosen couple showed up. Super friendly people, and it turns out that I work with one of the people that were chosen. We were hanging out in the bar, talking about how awesome it was that the Lightning were in the Finals, and she told me about how they were chosen to come to the game as well. After hearing their story, I realized how fortunate I was to be invited. They had an amazing story that was affected by health issues.I was just a huge Lightning fan, who had car issues. I felt like doing the whole “Waynes World We’re Not Worthy” thing but then Brett showed up.

He bought us a round of drinks in the lobby bar, and we all talked about hockey, the Bolts and our personal lives. I’ve never met anyone like Brett before; I could really tell how passionate he was about this. We were probably at the bar for an hour having an amazing time and just talking about whatever we wanted. It really felt like we were all close friends at one time, that were all seeing each other for the first time in years and catching up. Then Brett took us out to dinner at an awesome pizza place, and gave us each our tickets. Then we began our trek to the stadium.

He had never been to Tampa before, so I tried my best to give him a short walking tour of the city before we got to the arena. We stopped at the Andreychuk statue for a group photo, then quickly admired the Espy statue before finally getting inside. We walked around the stadium, and visited the bar at the organ before heading to our seats. The atmosphere was INCREDIBLE to say the least. I made a point to talk about how awesome our Tesla Coils are, and show off all the renovations Vinik had made in the past few years.

As hard as it was to watch the first 2 losses of the finals, I’ve never had that much fun at a game in my life. The Lightning lost the game 2-1, but that wasn’t important. I went to a finals game for my home team. The rush I got when Filppula tied the game in the 2nd is something I’ll never forget in my life. The stadium was electric (no pun intended) for that only goal for the Bolts of the game. But of all the hat tricks, shoot out, and overtime goals I had seen, nothing could top that. I got some awesome giveaways, and we all had a blast.

After the game, nobody wanted to just go home, so we were planning on how to cap off an incredible night. We decided to go up to the Party Deck and just enjoy the amazing view of downtown and soak in the atmosphere for as long as we could. We stayed until security told us they were closing. I believe it was at 1 or 2 am, and we started to head back to where we all parked. The other couple said their goodbyes since they parked in a separate lot, and Brett and I headed back to his hotel. I couldn’t stop thanking him for everything, and he said the reason he does this is to see a reaction like that from a fan that wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise.

I said goodbye to him in the lobby, then headed home. He was flying out to Chicago the next day to bring another lucky fan to game 6. I brought a couple local beers with me upon our initial meeting that I had been aging for a while. I felt like I should at least bring something to say thank you if everything ended up exactly how it did. I didn’t even think about how much of a hassle it might have been for Brett to get them home. But about a week later I got a text from him of a picture of him in his home drinking one of the beers I gave him. He thanked me for the beer, but in hindsight, it was the least I could have done. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and one of the best nights of my life. I can say, without a doubt, that the Gift of the Cup is the greatest give I have ever received.