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Lightning homecoming coverage varied in Tampa Bay media market

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Just a day and a half after the Tampa Bay Lightning were shut out of a second Stanley Cup win, fans don’t appear to be licking their wounds. Media coverage throughout the Bay area paints a different picture – one of grateful fans who are proud of their Bolts.

Several Tampa Bay area news websites are leading their pages with stories about Tuesday’s Lightning homecoming. The team landed at the Tampa International Jet Center at about 2:30 Tuesday afternoon and were greeted by about 500 adoring fans despite scorching heat.

Wednesday morning The Tampa Tribune’s website was still placing its story among the top four headlines.

“It was love,” Tribune reporter Joey Johnston wrote. “Pure love.”

His story noted how loyal fans were for sticking it out in the heat to welcome home the worn and battered almost 2015 Stanley Cup champions. But Johnston also pointed out the players did the same. One fan expressed gratitude for players sticking around to give autographs and take selfies with fans despite the heat.

The Tampa Bay Times ran with a similar story and included a photo gallery of players mingling with fans. Its story noted that Victor Hedman, a Lightning star defenseman, had already shaved his token playoff beard. He told the Times he did so just a half hour after the devastating Game 6 defeat against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Times spoke to team captain Steven Stamkos who lauded fans loyalty.

“We didn’t even win, and to see all of these fans who have been there since day one, it’s truly remarkable,” Stamkos told the Times. “For the world to see how great this city is and how hockey-crazed that the fans are, I mean, you can’t ask for any better support than we’ve had this season.”

Stamkos was reportedly one of the last players to stick around with fans on the tarmac. He still had his beard and, as the Times points out, it was dripping with sweat.

Fox 13 carried a different sort of welcome home story. It featured a pair of dueling friends. Code Neal and Jonathan Baker both work at an Atomic Tattoos in Tampa as tattoo artists.

According to Fox 13, the two friends made a wager on the game. Both would get championship tattoos of their team. Neal branded Baker with ink representing the Blackhawks and Baker tattooed Neal with a Lightning championship logo.

Obviously the stakes in this bet were permanent – one of the two men would be left with a factually inaccurate tattoo. In this case that person was Neal. He told Fox 13 he wouldn’t be changing the tattoo because “it’s a good memory.”

The Fox 13 report said the two fans got flak from friends who worried the tattoos jinxed their teams, but since they both did it, the bad luck was canceled out.

WTSP also ran with a welcome-home story. In its report a fan dispels any notions that hockey can’t be popular in warm-weather states.

“Oh, it’s awesome. To those northerners who say hockey cannot survive in a warm-weather market, I’d like to invite them down to Tampa and watch some hockey down here,” Eric Nelski told Fox. “Hockey rules in Tampa Bay.”

Both News Channel 8 and Bay News 9 had Lightning coverage on their websites, but both were a little harder to find. Readers have to look for the stories under the sports tab.

News Channel 8 had two stories about the Lightning loss in Game 6 and the Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup triumph. The site also appears in need of an update. A poll asking readers who would win the Cup was still front and center at the top of the Lightning coverage page.

Meanwhile, Bay News 9 focused its homecoming coverage on the team’s overall success throughout the playoffs and not just the final.

They pointed out the Game 6 defeat marked the first three-game losing streak of the entire season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They also praised the Lightning defense, saying the team had limited the NHL’s highest-scoring team in the regular season to just 10 goals in the six-game Stanley Cup final series.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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