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The Lightning fans all sing the city electric

From ticket frenzy to keepsake sales to the artful blue and white design on a police horse's rear, the Times Forum teemed with Bolt devotees' energy.

BRADY DENNIS and TOM ZUCCO
Published June 9, 2004

TAMPA - Ah, the sights the cameras don't catch.

Viewers who watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night saw a memorable hockey game and a defining moment in Tampa Bay sports history.

What they didn't see was the barely organized chaos surrounding the event. Inside the St. Pete Times Forum and outside on the streets, Monday's game drew revelers, merchants and fans of every stripe.

Here are a few glimpses.

* * *

Before she stepped onto the ice to sing the national anthems, Brooke Bollea waited in the bowels of the St. Pete Times Forum in a clingy, deep-blue sequined evening gown she bought at Dillard's for $149.

"She wanted to get the ultimate team color, for good luck," said her mother, Linda Bollea. "She can wear that kind of stuff."

This was moments before Brooke's father, wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, emerged to perform his trademark ripping of his shirt.

* * *

Before the game, Calgary fan Ryan Bathgate, 37, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, said Tampa fans have treated him and his friends well.

Maybe too well.

"You don't need to be like Philly fans, but my advice would be to get more of an edge. Get a little meaner," he said.

Just then, a Lightning fan walking by eyed Bathgate in his red Flames shirt and yelled, "Take off, hoser."

"Now that's more like it!" Bathgate said.

* * *

The streets around the St. Pete Times Forum oozed with business, legitimate and not-so-legitimate.

Entrepreneurs were selling everything, from $2 "Lucky Lightning" alcohol shots to Italian sausages to new cars.

The ice cream truck showed up. The U.S. Post Office hawked commemorative stamps. Local media outlets handed out gift bags.

Ticket scalpers with greased hair and sunglasses slithered on the street corners, next to the poor souls holding signs that read, "I need tickets."

One scalper whipped out a wad of cash and said to a passing ticketholder, "I'll pay whatever you want."

* * *

One of the best seats around was on the water.

Steve Morrow and Frances Young soaked up the ambiance of Game 7 without fighting the crowds.

Monday afternoon, they hopped in their 22-foot wooden crab boat near Lowry Park Zoo and cruised down to the channel behind the Times Forum.

They lounged happily in two deck chairs, tuning in to the game on an old Optimus radio and listening to the roars of the crowd on the plaza about 100 yards away.

"It's nice out here," said Young, 55.

Added Morrow: "You beat the traffic, man."

* * *

There were a lot of candidates for best homemade sign.

One of them showed a large photo of Long Island lothario Joey Buttafuoco next to an equally large photo of Calgary coach Darryl Sutter.

The caption: "Separated At Birth."

Danny Clement, 27, of Lakeland, marched around with a sign that read, "Need 2 tickets (or chicks)." At last check, he had found neither.

But really, it was tough to top the blue and white lightning bolt painted on the rear end of a Tampa Police Department horse.

* * *

- Times staff writers Graham Brink and Saundra Amrhein contributed to this report.

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