TAMPA, Fla. — The Lightning’s ring ceremony Thursday night gave the team one last opportunity to celebrate its back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.
As coach Jon Cooper says, banners are for the fans and rings are for the players, and owner Jeff Vinik wasted no expense putting on a lavish event at his home worthy of the Lightning’s rare feat — complete with a surprise performance by chart-topping rock group Fall Out Boy.
“Poof, all of a sudden Fall Out Boy is playing,” Cooper said. “You’re like, ‘What else is going to happen here?’ I’ve been in this organization a decade now, and right when you think you’ve seen it all with the Viniks they continue to top it. It was an experience that I will never forget.”
Championship rings were presented in sumptuous white boxes that played a highlight video when opened. Players sent videos to former teammates now on other teams. And the Stanley Cup had a front row seat for it all.
But once the party ended, the photos were posted on social media and Fall Out Boy finished its first backyard concert since 2002, it marked the epilogue to the Lightning reliving last season’s success.
“It’s probably symbolic that (the ring’s) got ‘Last Day of School’ inside, because I think (Thursday) night was the last time we should be thinking about last year,” Cooper said. “And it was well deserved. I’m so glad we got to experience that, for the most part, and even the guys that weren’t there, videos were sent in and I know they were part of it during the night. Everybody was texting them.
“But that was last year, and we got to be with the Stanley Cup one more time. But now it’s time to go win some hockey games, and that was our focus from the moment we got in (Friday) morning and going forward. That was their closing chapter.”
The Lightning reported to practice in a different frame of mind.
They have many things to address following their 2-2-0 start, including an offense that has sputtered out of the gate, held to two or fewer goals in three of their first four games. They have to fix a power-play unit that was 0-for-6 in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Panthers. And they have to fill the tremendous void created by star forward Nikita Kucherov’s indefinite absence.
“(Thursday) night brought back a lot of memories for the guys,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “You kind of relive that moment. (Friday), the date has turned, and you get ready for (Saturday).”