Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Die Hard... Bolts Fan

Guess my anonymity just got a little less so.  The Lightning became my cathartic escape from reality or at least my reality for a few months.  Somehow through a myriad of wonky circumstances, I ended up with full season tickets to the Bolts.  My adopted hometown team (anonymity just depleted to near zero now).

The joke often told is that Minnesotans are born without skates but after leaving the womb, and instead of learning to walk, we skate.

That's mostly true.  I skated before I walked, as did my son and his father as well.  We skate, we check, we chase a little round rubber thing on the ice... and then we grow up and forget that passion.

Until we find a team.

Jeff Vinik bought the Tampa Bay Lightning in the late 2000s.  I didn't know who he was then, not sure anyone really did.  Then he landed a big fish, a general manager with a 20 year history with one of the storied teams in the NHL - Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings.

The rest, they say, is history.

With Ben Bishop in net, Stamkos at center, add in Palat, Boyle, Filpula, Heddy, Nesty, Vladdy, Vasy (OI OI OI), DROUINNNN, Brown (hometown Bulldogger), Garrison (another hometown Bulldogger), and that Point guy (seriously, 1 NHL game, 1 goal in sudden death)... this team is a joy to watch.  And forget about reality.

Jeff Vinik didn't stop with the Bolts.  He reinvigorated a dead town.  People born and raised here, having never lived anywhere else, don't get it (much like Minnesotans that never leave either). Culturally, Tampa IS different.  Big companies won't come here because of the work ethic, or lack thereof despite that salaries are lower here, big companies want to pay less for more work, or threaten to move to other countries (hello Mexico!)

Mr. Vinik, however, put all those thoughts to shame and started building infrastructure and revitalized a decaying downtown.  He pulled in the powers of Bill Gates, the USF Medical School among others and Tampa is growing.  Growing up!

Tampa is no longer just a beach town, a town where people winter and drive poorly (they will always do that, blinkers matter!)... Tampa is a growing corporate community, I believe, largely due to Vinik.

And he's humble.  And kind.  And when he was announced at the fan fest, he received a standing ovation.  From us, the fans and citizens of this great town (I said that... I really did... thanks to the Bolts).

Vinik should run for office.  He crossed boundaries, barriers, and created a great place to cheer for a team, earn decent pay, and maybe, forget about reality for a bit.

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