2004 Stanley Cup Champions - Tampa Bay Lightning
Monday - June 7, 2004... Tampa Bay Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup (4-3) in Game 7 of the series at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa by a score of 2-1 over the Calgary Flames.
Wednesday - June 9, 2004... The City of Tampa hosts a parade through downtown Tampa honoring the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning are the first team from the final wave of expansion, which began in 1991, to capture a championship. They are also the first Sunbelt team to win the Stanley Cup and the sixth team in NHL history to win a title in their finals debut.
The NHL announced in 1989 that it wanted to expand to 28 teams by the year 2000. The following year, NHL Hall of Fame player, Phil Esposito announced that the Tampa Bay-St Petersburg area would be a perfect area for an NHL franchise. To verify his assertion, Esposito helped promote an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins at the Florida Suncoast Dome (currently named Tropicana Field). The game drew a record 25,581 fans.
In December 1991, the NHL gave final approval for the Lightning and the Ottawa Senators franchises. Phil remained with the club as general manager and his brother Tony Esposito, former NHL goalie, headed the scouting division. The Tampa Bay Lightning first took to the ice on September 12, 1992 in Lakeland Florida. Esposito began the franchise by doing the unexpected and he continued that strategy by giving female goalie Manon Rheaume a tryout. On September 23, 1992 Manon made history by becoming the first women to play one of the 4 major professional sports when she started the game against the St Louis Blues.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's first game was on October 7, 1992 against the Chicago Blackhawks with a sell out crowd of 10,425 at the the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. The Lightning defeated the Blackhawks 7-3, with Chris Kontos scoring 4 goals, which today, still remains a club record for the most goals in a game.
In their second season the Lightning moved into the Florida Suncoast Dome. When the Lightning made it a temporary home, it was renamed the ThunderDome. At the home opener on October 9, 1993, the Lightning and Florida Panthers played to 27,227 fans, setting an NHL record for the highest attendance at a regular season game.
In the 1995-1996 season, the Lightning reached the playoffs and faced the Philadelphia Flyers. Tampa won a couple of games, but Philadelphia won the series 4-2. During game four, Tampa set a new NHL record for the highest attendance at a playoff game with 28,183 in attendance.
In 1996, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened up at their new arena, the Ice Palace (now called the Amalie Arena).