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Fans defend their fair weather and flip-flops

Supporters don't equate tradition or braving blizzards with loyalty to Lightning.

Published June 1, 2004

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Khabibulin and Corey Stillman stave off the attempt of Calgary's Jarome Iginla.
Main story
Photo gallery
John Romano: Game's most important player also its best
Gary Shelton: Lightning survives brutal battle of attrition
Period by period coverage
Supporting cast combines for lead role in win
Fans defend their fair weather and flip-flops
Early chance yields an early reward
Sound bites
The goalies
Non-deal led to final for Turek, Lightning
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Click on each score for the main story from each game
(Lightning wins series 4-3)
Tuesday [5/25]: Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1
Thursday [5/27]: Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1
Saturday [5/29]: Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 0
Monday [5/31]: Tampa Bay 1, Calgary 0

TAMPA - Oh, the troubles of Florida hockey fans.

How do they endure the 91-degree temperatures and soft evening breezes brushing through palm tree fronds as they settle into beach chairs to watch Game 4?

But just because the setting outside the St. Pete Times Forum on Monday night seemed more Jimmy Buffett-like than icy, the fans insisted they have just as much mettle as Calgary counterparts.

"I think if you're sitting in 90-degree weather, you're more of a fan," said Danielle Zinna, 21, of New Port Richey, nestled into her blue portable chair.

And it's not as though Lightning fans don't have sacrifices and hardships to endure to support their beloved team.

Before hundreds arrived to watch the game projected on the side of a parking garage, they faced Tampa traffic, almost always treacherous, even on a holiday. And there was the man on the bandstand blaring out REO Speedwagon's Roll with the Changes.

But as some see it, Lightning fans have it made.

"We can go to a hockey game one day and go to the beach the next," Dean Cullison of Zephyrhills said after throwing an airball at the Megahoops booth before the game. He drove down to watch the game at the plaza with his two sons, ages 15 and 17.

"You've got a more laid-back atmosphere," Cullison said. "This is Florida."

Jill Terry and Bianca Riholm, both 15 and from Wesley Chapel, would call themselves anything but laid-back.

"It took her three hours to get ready," Riholm said of her friend. Both sported blue spray-painted hair, blue eye shadow and blue eyeliner on their lips. "You can love hockey anywhere," said Terry, with blue ribbons tied to her flip-flops.

But leave it to Florida Canadians to put it into perspective.

"If you're from up north, you watch it regardless," Scott "Scooter" Condy said as he sipped beers before the game as fans streamed onto the plaza around him.

Condy, born in Nova Scotia, has been in the Tampa area 22 years.

"You'll see a couple thousand here tonight, but in Calgary there will be about 30,000 people," he said.

Sean Burnett, his buddy and colleague at Cody's Original Roadhouse, said it was too soon to judge the enthusiasm of Tampa Bay fans based on northern standards.

"You get up at four o'clock in the morning and shovel snow (before playing hockey up north)," said Burnett, originally from Buffalo. "But you're building a hockey base here."

With its own touches. Up north, most of the women at games wear jerseys, the men said. But at the plaza, more skin was on display, including women in bikini tops.

Having seen the game from both sides, Burnett says he'll stay put in Florida.

"You're going to a hockey game wearing shorts and sandals," Burnett said. "What more can you ask for?"

[Last modified June 1, 2004, 01:00:29]

Today's lineup

  • Nik of time
  • Period by period coverage
  • Supporting cast combines for lead role in win
  • Fans defend their fair weather and flip-flops
  • Early chance yields an early reward
  • Slapshots
  • Sound bites
  • The goalies

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