The back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning were toasted with a boat parade on the Hillsborough River for the second time in 10 months, with thousands of fans no longer burdened by COVID-19 restrictions gathering downtown to join the fun.
The Stanley Cup’s time at the parade, however, was unfortunately cut short, as the bowl of the Cup was dented during the festivities.
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s “Keepers of the Cup” could be seen carrying it with a blanket covering the bowl and then loading it into the back of a car. A source told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski that the Cup will be shipped back to Canada for repairs. There’s no word on how the Cup was damaged.
This is far from the first time the Cup has been damaged during player festivities. For example, back in 2008, the Stanley Cup was pushed off a table at Chris Chelios’ bar in Detroit as the Red Wings celebrated their championship. That dent was hand-hammered out.
The scene on Monday — five days after the Lightning closed out a five-game Stanley Cup Final win over the Montreal Canadiens — hardly resembled the riverfront gathering organized after the team won last year’s title while playing in empty arenas because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of residents on boats and other watercraft enjoyed a close view of vessels carrying players and coaches. A post-parade rally in a downtown park was delayed more than an hour when a heavy thunderstorm accompanied by gusting winds sent fans scattering for cover.
Eventually, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and players took the podium to address the crowd in a steady rain.
At one point, forward Yanni Gourde slid across the stage on a trolley while some other players and coach Jon Cooper climbed down to interact with fans along barricades.
Playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy placed the Conn Smythe Trophy on his head, much to the delight of drenched spectators soaked by the rain and champagne sprayed by players.
It’s the third time in 10 months that the Tampa Bay region has celebrated a professional sports title with a unique parade concept Tampa officials developed to provide the Lightning and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers a way to party safely with fans during the pandemic.
The Bucs were honored five months ago after winning the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years, with thousands lining the downtown riverfront while being encouraged to wear masks and observe social-distancing practices.
The February celebration capped a magical postseason run that the Tom Brady-led Bucs began by winning three straight playoff games on the road before finishing the journey by becoming the first team to win a Super Bowl played in its home stadium.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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