TAMPA, Fla. — The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in a playoff format like no other in NHL history, and their offseason with the Cup has been equally unprecedented.
While coronavirus restrictions have limited where the Cup can travel, the Lightning, the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is the Cup's home, seek to continue the 25-year tradition of giving each member of the winning team a day with the Cup.
Typically, the Cup makes its way around the world during the summer. This year there aren't immediate plans for the Cup to travel out of Florida. The hope is that warm winter weather might lure some of those with out-of-town home bases back to Tampa Bay to celebrate their Cup days here.
Also, the Lightning don't know how long they'll have the Cup. They won it in Game 6 of the Final Sept. 28. The tentative start date for next season is Jan. 1, but that could change.
It's certainly a different routine for Cup keepers Phil Pritchard and Dave Bishop.
Since initially arriving in Tampa Bay, the Cup has been on boats, on beaches and in bars. Steven Stamkos and Ryan McDonagh shared it with patients at the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa.
The Cup gets disinfected daily, but in the coronavirus era, it's difficult to have social distancing around a trophy that always draws a crowd. Bishop said fans in Tampa Bay often recognize the Cup just from its case.
"Usually the events would be more free-flowing with a lot more people," Bishop said. "We're trying to keep the events more low-key. The NHL has really strict protocols, and we have to follow those. It just means you can't do the same thing you could do normally, but we're trying to make it as fun for everyone as normal as possible."
While waiting to see how the Lightning could spend their offseason with the Cup, the trophy was sent to Montreal for engraving of their names. Traditionally, the Cup is engraved close to when the season starts. Now the Lightning are the first team to have their days with the Cup with their names already on it.
"We've been thinking outside of the box," said Pritchard, also the curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. "How can we make some positives in a nontraditional, kind of negative time in the world, and this one of them was. Let's get the Cup engraved so when we do have that opportunity, the guys can celebrate it. So it's a huge positive, I think, and everyone (agreed) with it.