The Lightning marks 2002-03 one last time with a division title flag.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published October 11, 2003
[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
The Lightning's first division championship banner is raised to the rafters by Dave Andreychuk, right, and teammates.
TAMPA - The lights at the St. Pete Times Forum went dark except for a couple of colored spotlights that illuminated two black drapes that hung from the rafters and hovered over the ice.
A video of the Lightning's best moments from last season played on the scoreboard. The music was from the movie Superman.
Then the payoff. Captain Dave Andreychuk, assistants Vinny Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin, and defenseman Jassen Cullimore pulled down the drapes to reveal the banner commemorating the 2002-03 Southeast Division championship. It was the organization's first division title.
The crowd, already primed for opening night against the Bruins and armed with ThunderStix, went wild as the banner was pulled to the roof. Lightning players banged their sticks on the ice.
"I just hoped it wouldn't be too much of a distraction," Andreychuk said before the game. "To me, it adds to the season we had last year."
"I think it's important for this organization," coach John Tortorella said. "There are a lot of people here who have gone through hell as far as some of the ups and downs of the franchise. I'm not a big guy on division winning. There is a bigger prize out there. But a lot of people have worked hard here. It's a nice thing for them to see."
How nice was it for Cullimore?
The defenseman has seen the best and worst during his seven seasons with the Lightning organization. That is tied for the most of any player, so it's natural that he was included as a curtain puller.
"You talk to any player when they're with a team that's struggling a little bit and you want to be there when the team turns around," Cullimore said. "It's definitely something I'm enjoying here and seeing this happen here and being a part of it."
"But we kind of put it away now," Andreychuk said. "We've put it up in the rafters and let it stay there. This is a brand new season."