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Some are immune to Lightning fever

In some places, people's lives are mostly untouched by the fury over "that big cup thing."

Published June 4, 2004

[Times photo: Jospeh Garnett Jr.]
In a few placid enclaves around Tampa Bay, such as the Lotus Room Yoga Studio in Tampa, the fury over the Stanley Cup playoffs was held at bay.
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Calgary's Marcus Nilson and Stephane Yelle celebrate the Flames' Game 5 victory.
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Some are immune to Lightning fever
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(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 - On blue and purple mats, they curled their legs and followed the soothing suggestions of their instructor.

"Just close your eyes. Step out of that thinking brain," advised Laraine O'Neill, as ceiling fans silently whirled above a room of blue and brick walls and potted palm trees.

"Soften every part of you that you touch with your mind's eye," O'Neill said. "Yoga is all part of awareness."

While becoming more cognizant of their bodies, the 30 students in the class at the Lotus Room Yoga Studio on Kennedy Boulevard were managing to block out what has become an obsession throughout the area: the Stanley Cup hockey finals.

Hard to believe, but as thousands surged toward the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday night, thousands more throughout the bay area went about chasing their own, separate passions.

"I like hockey, but I'm not about to stay home and watch the hockey game when I can do this," said a toned 60-year-old Jane Dudley of Tampa before the yoga class began.

Beverly Barker, 49, of North Tampa said she might even do some more yoga at home later Thursday night to relax after her husband was done giving her a breathless update on the game.

Across Tampa Bay in downtown St. Petersburg, three to four dozen people moved quietly through the galleries of the Salvador Dali Museum, oblivious to the hockey frenzy around them. Marian Hernandez sat behind a desk, her fingers clicking across the cash register as she sold tickets to the museum. Lifting her brown eyes, the 22-year-old smiled at customers before sending them toward the paintings she loves by the artist who intrigues her.

What does not intrigue her is hockey.

"I don't really see the point in it. It's too barbaric," she said. "The red team . . . who's the red team?" she asked a co-worker, who shrugged and giggled.

"People are obsessed with it," she said. "I know people will hate me for saying so, but I don't get it."

Neither does Melinda Santiago. Late Thursday afternoon, she strode rapidly with her two daughters in tow, their little legs struggling to keep up, to Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The three were racing to a rehearsal for tonight's dance recital by Victoria's School of Dance of Brandon.

Santiago rolled her eyes at the mention of hockey. She's not a fan, she said, urging along her two daughters, 4-year-old Meylena in blue and 6-year-old Shaylen in a sparkly, red dance costume.

But, she conceded, "My friend's husband said this better be over before the hockey game."

Mostly mothers and female relatives rushed through the lobby of the hall, carrying garment bags and pink ballerina dresses.

Some dance plans had been cramped by the hockey infatuation. Witness the absence of some husbands.

"Let's put it this way," said Karyn McCullough of Brandon as she applied red eyeshadow to the lids of two girls, "he's supposed to videotape. But he's not showing."

He told her there was yard work to do.

"You know how much I don't believe him?" she said.

At the performing arts center's Shimberg Playhouse - at nearly the same time as face-off at the Forum - a few dozen people settled in for The Mineola Twins.

"I take it none of you are Lightning season ticket holders?" the emcee announced on the small stage before the start of the show.

Linda Bogner-Norton of Tampa flipped through her program.

"I know they are in the playoffs for that big cup thing," she said, setting her glasses right on her nose as the lights went out. "But there are some people who don't enjoy that stuff who live here."

- Times staff writer Jamie Thompson contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 4, 2004, 01:30:57]

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