March 20, 2015
Wow – what an incredible hockey game experience! Here’s how to do it right. First – make sure your hockey team is competitive, and that’s been Tampa Bay for 10+ years, ever since they won the Stanley Cup in 2004! Arena location is important too, and with the Amalie Arena located in downtown Tampa, it’s in a great location – close to where people work, and where a lot of people live. (When coming in from the outskirts, you actually drive the opposite of rush-hour traffic when going to the game. And there’s nightlife not too far from the arena.)
And here’s the other thing where Tampa does an incredible job – make the game experience an entertaining night out, starting with the pre-game festivities. I arrived to the game about 1 1/2 hours before puck drop, and it was great to see a live band playing, and people mingling about, enjoying food and drink, before settling into their seats. And for those who think waiting around in 82º F / 28º C weather for a game to start, they even have outside heaters!
I would like to thank Caity, Nik and the Tampa Bay Lightning for honouring me as their Social Captain for this game, the 8th game in my 30-game trip! Nik took me for an incredible tour of the building, which included the “under-belly” of the arena, where the players loosen up before the game, where the anthem singer prepares (Sonya Bryson from the U.S. Air Force), and I even got the opportunity to meet Hall-of-Famer Phil Esposito, the man who was instrumental in bringing an NHL franchise to Tampa Bay! (Esposito has his own statue, situated in the middle of “Thunder Alley,” at the entrance to the arena.)
I’ve run into so many great people in my trip, and I love talking hockey (and about other things) with hockey fans. Here below is Stu, his wife and son from Ottawa who I met up with at the game. And I had a great time sitting with four very nice people from the Bay area – Sonny, Rochelle, Shane and Heather.
I’ve added a few more pictures of the various areas of the arena, including the club areas, a luxury suite, and pre-game dining room.
Here is a photo of the crowd, which shows the number of Red Wings fans in the building. I’ve also added a nice shot of the ice.
And lastly, here’s a picture of me and Nic, from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks again for an incredible experience!
By the way, for those keeping score, Tampa Bay beat the Red Wings by a score of 3-1, the last goal scored into the empty net, after a deft move by Lightning captain Steve Stamkos. (Who, by the way, has amazing soccer skills. So do his teammates! Watching them warm up before the game was a real treat!)