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Bolts fan since:;1992
Hockey fan since:;1977
Bolts games:;289 (through 2003-'04)
I attended my first hockey game in Atlanta in the mid-'70s (Flames vs. ???), but I didn't really "discover" hockey until 1977, when I saw a clip on TV of the Los Angeles Kings' Marcel Dionne score a beauty of a goal after an amazing individual effort against the Detroit Red Wings.
Perhaps because I'm a lifelong champion of the underdog, I actually started following the Wings rather than the Kings, although I still counted Dionne as my favorite player (especially after I found out he was once a Wing). From there I discovered Guy Lafleur, Jari Kurri, Dino Ciccarelli, John Orgrodnick and, eventually, Steve Yzerman. Living in the U.S., it wasn't easy being a hockey fan. Living in Florida, it was damn near impossible. But I was hooked.
In 1992, hockey finally arrived in Tampa and I had a new favorite team: The Tampa Bay Lightning. Those early years were rough. Hell, the middle years were rough, too. I still cringe at the very mention of the name Ian Herbers. But all the heartache paid off last season when the Bolts, my Bolts -- long considered a league doormat, a laughingstock, a perennial cellar dweller -- skated the Stanley Cup.
During those long, lean years, Lightning fans hung their hats wherever they could. With few victories, no superstars and only one brief playoff appearance, we had to look hard for the silver lining. In the endless parade of young NHL hopefuls, we found it. If anyone has seen more than their share of raw, undeveloped potential, it is us. And that goes a long way toward explaining why many of us -- particularly those who started this site -- developed an enduring appreciation for prospects.
I've played hockey only recreationally in the '80s and '90s. (I was better suited to other sports.) In my spare time -- back when I used to have spare time, anyway -- I read, write, go to the movies and give in to extended political rants until my family leaves the room. I like hot wings and cold Labatt Blue.