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From A to Z, a closer look at 12 seasons of Lightning

By TOM JONES
Published June 8, 2004

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

If the Lightning's unprecedented postseason run has done anything, it has reminded us all of the team's history: the good, the bad, the ugly, as well as the laughable, the inspiring and the forgettable.

So the 2003-04 Lightning should be thanked for jogging the memories of this franchise. So with that, here's a look at the Lightning from A to Z, from its modest start to this, the greatest season of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A: Dave Andreychuk. Who would've thought the Lightning (!) would fulfill his lifelong dream of playing for a Cup?

B: Brian Bradley. The original all-star has enjoyed this run more than any former Lightning player.

C: Terry Crisp. The original coach made Game 3 and 4 appearances.

D: Jacques Demers. Still the most likable man in team history.

E: Phil Esposito. The Lightning wouldn't be here without him.

F: Florida State Fairgrounds. Hard to believe this season after the humble beginnings at the barn, Expo Hall.

G: Chris Gratton. His leaving for Philadelphia was the first sign of Lightning's financial troubles in late 1990s.

H: Roman Hamrlik. The first pick in Lightning history.

I: Ice Palace. The first name of the St. Pete Times Forum, home to this magical team and, oh yeah, Wayne Gretzky's final great moment with the 1999 All-Star Game MVP award.

J: J is for Jay, as in Feaster, the GM who helped build this incredible run.

K: Chris Kontos. Four goals in first game still a team record.

L: Vinny Lecavalier. Someday, perhaps, a kooky NBA owner will call his player the Vinny Lecavalier of basketball.

M: M is for Manon. Hey, this Rheaume woman showed more guts than anyone who ever wore a Lightning sweater.

N: N is for Nasty, nickname for Andrei Nazarov, owner of the best (and most appropriate) nickname in club history.

O: Takashi Okubo. The alleged first owner of the Lightning. We think. After all, no one ever met the guy. Or spoke to him. Or knew anyone who knew him. Or spoke to him.

P: Rick Peckham. Voice of the Lightning is a class act, on and off the air.

Q: The Lightning never has had a Q, so we'll use this spot for someone who never quit: video coach Nigel Kirwan, who has been with the team since the first game.

R: Ruuuudy Poeschek. Was there ever a tougher Lightning player?

S: Alex Selivanov. His overtime goal in Game 3 of the 1996 first-round series against Philadelphia was the biggest goal in team history. Well, until this year.

T: ThunderDome. The dome that brought us FanLand and the then-biggest crowd in NHL history.

U: Igor Ulanov. Iggy Pop looked like a villain from a James Bond movie. Played like one, too.

V: Vladimir Vujtek. Didn't do much, but we just love that name.

W: Art Williams. Former owner gets an "I Am a Stud" nod from us for clearing the franchise of debt and selling to a responsible owner.

X: The X-ray showing John Cullen had beaten cancer. Still the biggest victory in team history.

Y: Paul Ysebaert. The first-ever captain.

Z: Rob Zamuner. Even after this run, still might be the most popular player in these parts.

So, there it is, the Lightning from A to Z. We apologize to John Tortorella, Bill Davidson, Corey Schwab, Dieter Kochan, Larry "Yessir" Hirsch and Enrico "Chico" Ciccone.

We're sorry to Tony-O, the Chief, Cully, Jabber and Tabby. We're sorry to Aaron Gavey, Wayne Cashman, Rob DiMaio, Steve Oto, Brent Gretzky and Stephane Richer ... both of them. We're sorry to Basil, Darcy and Fredrik.

There just wasn't room for everyone. We just didn't have space for Joe Reekie, Petr Klima or Mikael Andersson. Or veterans such as Denis Savard, Dino Ciccarelli and Wendel Clark who made Tampa Bay their home in the twilight of their careers. Or goalies such as Daren Puppa, Bill Ranford or David Littman.

There are those behind the scenes, such as long-time equipment man Jim Pickard, old PR guy Gerry Helper and former coach/broadcaster Danny Gare. There was no room for them on the list, but they each have a place in Lightning history. Perhaps next year at this time, we'll have another list for another Stanley Cup final.

But if there isn't a final next season or even if there isn't a next season, the Lightning's run has made this season and this franchise one to always remember.

- On the Fly focuses on people, events and scenes around the game.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:01:17]

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