Disappointing End for the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Organ
The 2013 season has been a chaotic one at best. Their 20th season started with a near season ending lock out, it was riddled with injuries, multiple losing streaks, and the firing of the their head coach. Unfortunately it didn’t have warm hearted ending that involved a scrappy team fighting their way to the top. However, the fans were never discouraged and continued to show their support for their boys on the ice.

Despite a disappointing season this year, the Lightning are still one of the elite teams in the NHL. Their record may not show it, but the Lightning is still one of the top three scoring teams in the league and appear to be on track for another phenomenal scoring record next season. Martin St. Louis ended the season as the league’s top point leader this year, narrowly beating his line mate Steven Stamkos for the top spot and Stamkos was second in goals scored only being beaten by Alex Ovechkin. Offense is clearly not the team’s problem, but rather between the pipes.

The season started off promising with the team’s off season acquisition, goalie Anders Lindback, showing promise in the net. After the surprising start to the season, Lindback began to slump and with him the team slumped as well. After moving Lindback from the starting position, the spot went to veteran Matthew Garon. Even after the changing of the guard at the net, the goaltending issues continued to be a problem.

The Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman decided to pull the trigger on the trade deadline to send the team’s up and coming winger Cory Conacher for the 6’7″ goalie, Ben Bishop. Bishop has shown promise in the net, stopping 45 out of 45 shots on goal during his first game with the team. Unfortunately his efforts weren’t enough and had a string of bad starts.

Going into the offseason, the Lightning have a shopping list of spots that will need to be filled. There will be competition for the goaltender position between Lindback and Bishop and the team will no doubt bring in another goalie to help step up the intensity at the position. Luckily for the Lightning they have a deep pool of talent to reach into at their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, who just won the Calder Cup for the second straight year.

This year may have been a wash for the Lightning but, they never lost the faith of their fans (surprising for team located in Florida) and has a bright future to look forward to. It just depends on the men and women in the suits sitting in the front office.

The 2013 Buccaneer NFL Draft Party

Darrelle Revis being introduced as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer for the first time.

Darrelle Revis being introduced as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer for the first time.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted their annual NFL Draft Part on April 25th with great success. The Bucs drew a crowd of at least 8,000 fans to Raymond James Stadium to help kick off the 2013 football season. To help show appreciation for their fan base, the Bucs waived all parking fees and admission for the event while also cutting the prices on all food and beverages. As a special perk, the Bucs brought some key players from the team to interact with the season ticket members on the field and introduced two key off season acquisitions, Dashon Goldson and star cornerback Darrelle Revis. With the addition of Revis, the Buccaneers traded away the 13 overall pick in this year’s draft to the New York Jets, along with an additional pick in next year’s draft. Both of the new team members bring some much needed talent and discipline to a defense that sorely needs some pass defenders.

During the rest of the draft, the Bucs addressed other positions that needed attention after the departure of playmakers during the off season. Here are the key additions for the Buccaneers:
(43rd overall pick)- Cornerback Jonathan Banks
Jonathan Banks comes from Mississippi State with 16 career interceptions and also won the Jim Thorpe award in 2012 with four interceptions and 11 passes defended. This pick was an obvious attempt to help bolster the league’s worst pass defense. The Bucs are looking to revitalize the defense in a league that is witnessing an evolution of the quarterback position.

(73rd overall pick)- Quarterback Mike Glennon
At 6’7″, Mike Glennon is one of the taller quarterbacks in the league and has used his height to his advantage to spot his receivers on the field. Glennon had success at North Carolina State and threw for 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in one season, but accompanied it with 17 interceptions. The Bucs are hoping that the acquisition of another talented quarterback will help bring out the best of their starting quarterback Josh Freeman.

(100th overall pick)- Defensive Tackle Akeem Spence
Akeem Spence has shown the stamina and durability that is needed to play at the professional level after starting in 38 straight games for the Illinois Fighting Illini. He finished his collegiate career with 72 tackles and seven of those being tackles for a loss. With this pick, the Bucs addressed their productive, but under staffed defensive line.

The rest of the Buccaneer’s picks are as followes:
(126th overall pick)- Defensive End William Gholston

(147th overall pick)- Defensive End/ Outer Linebacker Steven Means

(189th overall pick)- Running Back Mike James

The Great Equalizer

It may be cliché to say, but sports are the great equalizer in our country. Most people in the world associate themselves with their local sports team. With this association comes the joy of success, the grief of failure, and the passion for rivalries. However, this past week we saw our nation root for one team…Boston. The cradle of our country’s democratic system was attacked this past week and left our nation paralyzed in shock of the atrocity that occurred at the Boston Marathon last Monday. We all sat in front of televisions, refreshed our laptops, and set alerts for our news apps to keep informed on the manhunt of the two criminals that committed these crimes. Our nation watched an event occur that has not happened in modern history, as social media and technology helped find these men and bring them to justice. In the time that this happened, the country had to continue living their lives, and that included sporting events.

The day after the terrorist attacks occurred, the Chicago Tribune published a cover that reached out to the Boston community in a sign of solidarity that emphasized that Boston is not alone and we will help hold our brothers and sister up in their time of pain. Our time of pain. That same night, the Boston Bruins played a game at home and started the game off by singing the national anthem, as is customary, but on this particular night it was sung by a choir of 17,500 Bostonians, as the singer gave the mic to the crowd. The night after that, the New York Yankees showed their own support for the city as they played the Boston Red Sox anthem, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Normally the two cities are bitter rivals in just about every other aspect, but the two cities stood as brothers united by loss. On Friday, March 19th, the last of the two suspects was captured and throughout the nation Americans cheered with happiness, cried tears of joy, and stood tall with pride. This couldn’t have been more abundantly clear than at the sporting events around the nations that were occurring at that time, as the news reports streamed into stadiums and were shown on jumbotrons throughout the nation. I was attending the Rays/Athletics game myself and was a part of something special as I watched both attendees and players cheered in victory. As David “Big Papi” Ortiz said himself the very next day, “These jerseys do not say Red Sox on them today. They say Boston… This is our Fucking city!”

Sporting events may be just a game during any other day, but these past few days made sport the great equalizer. Everyone was rooting Boston.

Darrelle Revis Traded to Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have effectively put themselves in the conversation of playoff contenders for the 2013-14 season with some big money moves this offseason. If you were to visit the Buc’s official website, you would greeted with an opening page that displays the face of their new acquisition, Darrelle Revis.

It is a common belief, in the world of football, that Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback in the NFL. These comments aren’t fabrications from Revis’s previous team either, the numbers don’t lie. Revis has been in the league for 6 seasons now and in that time he has only played in four full seasons (two were cut short due to injury, but he played 13 of 16 regulation games in 2010). If you were to average out his 18 interceptions over the five seasons in which he played a majority of the regulation games, it would be around 3.6 interceptions per season. Not the most outstanding number, but he does bring a combined total of 241 solo tackles and a veteran presences that is sorely needed on the floundering Tampa defense.

This trade comes after weeks of speculation as to whether or not the Ney Work Jets would be willing to keep Revis (their best player by any stretch) as he neared the end of his contract or would they attempt to trade him for some younger talent?
In the past month, the Jets possible trade partners had been narrowed down to just the Buccaneers which led to negotiations that seemed to have strained the relationship between the two teams and could have possibly ruined any chance of a trade. However, the two teams were able to come to terms for the trade that appears to be beneficial for both teams. The trade may have cost the Jets their premier player, but it was just as costly for the Bucs as they sent their first round draft pick (13th overall) and a conditional pick from the 2014 draft in either the third or fourth round.

With this trade now completed, the Bucs now have one of the most talented defensive backfields in the NFL now. It is a squad that is anchored by the Buccaneer mainstay, Ronde Barber and the young yet proven, Mark Barron. The new acquisition of Darrelle Revis is accompanied by the addition of Free Safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson is the hard-hitting safety from the NFC Championship winning San Francisco 49ers, who had just become a free agent after the 49ers run to the Super Bowl.

With these four players, the Bucs hope to turn their league worst pass defense into a squad that is to be feared by every quarterback and receiver in the league. As the Bucs had the league’s best rush defense, they hope to restore their defense to the championship standards that were held by the 2002 Super Bowl winning team. With the moves that have been made this offseason, you can’t help but take sit up and take notice of the team that is doing whatever it takes to build a championship caliber team.

HCC Baseball

Sanchez's in-park homerun

Sanchez’s in-park homerun

HCC students showing their support for the baseball team

HCC students showing their support for the baseball team

On April 10, 2013, the Hillsborough Community College Hawks hosted their annual Community Baseball Night at George Steinbrenner Field. HCC took the field against the Pasco Hernando Community College Conquistadors for their last meeting of their two game series of the season. Their first meeting of the season resulted in a 3-8 loss for the Hawks away from home.
The game was free to all spectators who wanted to attend and the Student Government Association offered free food and handed out free “Terrible Towels” with the HCC Hawks logo on it; along with HCC blankets, and “Crazy Bird” sunglasses. The total number of spectators was around 300 people, which is considered to be a great outing for this size of an event.

The lower section of the stands was littered with HCC supporters that had turned out to support the team during their run for the playoffs. Students were showing their school spirit, with body paint and HCC themed shirts. The spectators enjoyed danced to the walk-up music, cheered for their friends on the field, and even raced each other for foul balls.

HCC came out with their bats swinging and took an early 3-0 lead by the second inning that was highlighted by a 2 RBI double by Omar Williams. Later in game, Tyler Sanchez put the Hawks out of reach of PHCC with a 3 RBI in-park homerun. The game ended in an 8-3 victory for HCC and put the Hawks one game closer to their goal of the state playoffs.

The Hawks have been struggling this season this season, only posting a 17-21-1 record. PHCC on the other hand has thrived this season, winning 29 games before tonight and is now eligible for playoff contention. Even with the Hawk’s mediocre record, they are still second in the Suncoast Conference with a 10-9 record and still hold on to their playoff hopes.

With only eight games left in the season, the Hawks have a small window of opportunity to take over State College of Florida in the Suncoast Conference for the conference champion spot. Four of the eight games remaining for the Hawks are against State College of Florida, with two of the games being played at home (Community Field at Steinbrenner Field). The two teams have not had an opportunity to play against each other before except for one game that had to be forfeited by HCC.

The state tournament championship will be held at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida, from May 10-14. Both the conference champion and runner-up from each conference will be eligible to compete in the tournament. The past two years the Hawks have had to watch the tournament play out without them in the competition, but look to break that skid this year and hope to leave an impression with the other teams in the tournament.

Cut For a Cure

The Tampa Bay Rays have partnered together again this year with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, for the Annual Cut for a Cure Charity Challenge. The event was held on March 15, at the team’s spring training facility before they took the field against the Philadelphia Phillies. After raising $8,000 for the foundation last year, the Rays have set the bar higher this year and are hoping to raise a total of $20,000. Individual donations of $100 or more arranges for tickets to the game, a head shaving with over 65 members of the Rays organization (including multiple players) and an event T-shirt that states “Fortune Favors the Bald”.

The Pediatric Cancer Foundation has held this event for the past four years in multiple communities nationwide. For the past four years, the Rays have hosted the event in an attempt help raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer. In the past four years, the players have been involved in the event, starting with ex-Rays pitcher Wade Davis as the sole player to have his head shaved in its inaugural year. Since then, multiple players from both the Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning have joined the effort and have in past years raised over with Lightning team captain, Vincent Lecavalier’s own  foundation raising $250,000 for the cause last year. The $8,000 that the Rays raised by private donors last year was pooled with the Lightning’s donations to surpass last year’s collective goal of $25,000, by over $2,500. The cumulative total raised throughout the nation came to a total of $350,000, a record breaking total for the foundation.

This isn’t Lecavalier’s only contribution to pediatric health services. In 2007, he committed $3-million for the construction of the All Children’s Hospital. Since then Lecavalier has helped cultivate a relationship between all the major sports teams in the Tampa Bay area in hope of starting a large community outreach program for the children of the area. Lecavalier has helped bring the needs of the community to the attention of the major sports teams.

For the past three years, the Rays have relied on Studio Uno salon of Spring Hill, Florida to handle the responsibilities of shaving the heads of players and donors. The owner of Studio Uno, Wilber Bonilla, said that he shaved the heads of multiple players and coaches, including David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings, and Dave Martinez. Luke Scott even had his signature mutton chops shaved off in support of the foundation.

Wilber Bonilla shaving the head of a Rays employee.

Wilber Bonilla shaving the head of a Rays employee.

In the upcoming weeks, both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the ex-Buccaneer Mike Alstott will be holding events of their own to help raise funds for the foundation. Donations can be made to the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation at www.vinny4.org, or the Pediatric Cancer Foundation at www.fastercure.org at any point throughout the year.

Tampa Bay Beer Week…Its Back!!!

The second annual Tampa Bay Beer Week will officially kick off on March 2nd and will allow for all beer lovers to congregate at their favorite watering holes and chat with some of the local brewers in the Tampa Bay area. With a growing number of micro-breweries gaining positive reputations in the Tampa Bay region, many of the local bar owners banded together to celebrate the growing culture. Owners of the local businesses make up the board for this eight day-long event, which allows the events to be hand tailored to allow the customers to interact with the brewers and give feedback on their products.

There will be a variety of events and specials being held at multiple venues throughout the Bay area that will allow their patrons to sample the craft beers of the region. Most of these venues are large chain run bars, such as Brass Tap and World of Beer, and will have specials on particular craft brews the entire length of beer week. Some of the more established, independent pubs will be holding more in depth events, in which they will be showcasing a particular beer or brewery that day.

Mr. Dunderbak’s, located at 14929 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, will be holding events all week long for the second year in a row. Starting on March 4th at 6:00pm, Dunderbak’s will be holding a free tasting and celebration, sponsored by 7th Sun Brewery. On March 6th, they will be hosting a sour beer ice cream social event. The event entails crepes, sour beers, and ice creams, but this particular event has a limited capacity and requires a pre-ordered ticket, set at the price of $30.

The New World Brewery Sign is a beacon of sorts for all beer lovers.

The New World Brewery Sign is a beacon of sorts for all beer lovers.

The New World Brewery, 1313 8th Ave. Tampa, has long been known for its laid back atmosphere during the day and house-rocking live music at night throughout Tampa. Located in Ybor City, New World Brewery never has a problem bringing customers through their doors to try their selection of over 80 beers (26 of which are on tap), on March 10th however, they will also be hold a sour beer social event in the morning and it also requires a ticket, but at the rate of $20.

So if you happen to be a beer connoisseur or you’re just looking to get out and try something new, head out to one of these or many other locations and events that can be found at, www.tampabaybeerweek.com. Hopefully you will find your new favorite brew or at the very least, experience a new atmosphere.

A Home for Baseball in Florida

A fraction of the fans at the annual Rays Fan Fest in 2013.

A fraction of the fans at the annual Rays Fan Fest in 2013.

Why can’t a state with year-long warmth, constant sunshine, and numerous retired northerners who have nothing better to do than spend some cash at a family friendly event, manage to cultivate a thriving baseball culture? Throughout the years there have been a number of reasons ranging from weather, to politics, to a lack of central transportation in the major cities. Those are all issues that have been dealt with or can be, barring a lack of brain power by our elected officials.

Having been born in Miami and living there until 2000, I was lucky enough to experience the birth of Major League Baseball in Florida. I matured with it. I lived less than 10 minutes from the stadium. My father took me to the inaugural game of the Florida Marlins in 1993, and I still have the ticket to this day. In 1997, my father went all out and took me to over 30 games (including a pennant game and game 1 of the World Series). Needless to say, I love baseball and want nothing more than for it to thrive in Florida.

My family moved to Tampa, Florida in 2000 and from there we switched our alliance to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I suffered with them for eight long seasons and in 2008 the Tampa Bay area was revived with a surprisingly scrappy, championship run. The newly dubbed “Tampa Bay Rays” breathed life into a city that was flat lining on their sports teams. Rayhawks were the new fashionable haircut (a mohawk dyed blue), the local bars were tuned into the games every night, and everyone had heard of the young phenom, Evan Longoria. The city had gone Rays-crazy and new rivalries were formed the Yankees and Red Sox. Since that year, the Rays have made it to the playoffs three times and have become one of the best run sports team in the country. All of the success is now in threat of being stripped of the Bay area, by some internal threats.

Boy sporting the Rayhawk.

Boy sporting the Rayhawk.

For many years, Tropicana Field has been known as the laughing-stock of the baseball community. People have joked that it should have its own page in the umpire’s handbook, because of all the rules that are in place for the stadium due to its fixed dome. It is the only baseball stadium left with a fixed dome and causes the ball to get lost in a white backdrop and is the only stadium that I know of that has a painted warning track (strip of clay that outlines the filed, so that fielders know that they are close to a wall when tracking the ball), and has no true bullpen; which is a threat to any bullpen pitcher that is warming up. To the owner’s credit, they have made major modifications to the stadium, but a polished turd is still a turd.

I can’t say the attendance has dropped, because there never was a true attendance. With the stadium being placed in an industrial city with a population of just over a half-million and a drive that takes at least 30 minutes one way (with gas prices hitting record marks every year), it is hard to build a fan base. It’s no coincidence however; that the Rays are dead last in attendance, but in the top ten team for television viewership. The team plays great baseball and the Tampa Bay area knows it.

Unfortunately, the Rays agreed to a lease with the city of St. Petersburg through 2027 and faces many obstacles on both sides of the Bay. St. Pete does not want to give up the team, because they feel losing the team would hurt their city. The mayor of St. Pete, Bill Foster, refuses to have any talks about letting the team leave and has prevented the team from looking across the Bay in Hillsborough county. If the Rays somehow manage to bypass that first hurdle and find a site that is suitable for a new ballpark, they must ask themselves, “Who is going to pay for it?”. They city of Tampa is looking at all possibilities for to make this happen right now, which shows that they are trying to make sure baseball stays in Tampa, because if the MLB has to step in, the Tampa Bay area will undoubtedly lose their ball club. All of these problems have caused the commissioner of the MLB to say that, “MLB has lost faith in the Tampa Bay area…”.

If the mayor of St. Pete does at least open negotiations, he will have single handedly driven a succesful professional sports team from the Tampa Bay area and that will be his legacy throughout the state.

Lightning Fan Fest


The Tampa Bay Lightning opened their doors to the public for their annual Fan Fest on January 13th. The team players spent the first hour of the event signing autographs and speaking with fans. After the hour of frantic fans requesting information and autographs, the players left for the locker rooms to get dressed out for their first official practice of the season. As the players prepared for practice, fans had the opportunity to check out some of the new features that are offered by the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The first attraction really stands out, seeing as how it is a brand new, 9 million dollar jumbo-tron; that also happens to be the largest of its kind in the league. The other major contribution to the Forum is the newly added team store. Located on the main level and next to the box office, the new team store is larger than the previous one and was offering many items with a 50% discount during Fan Fest. With the latter making the store a huge success. Before the players took to the ice the owner, Jeff Vinik, and the founder and NHL Hall of Famer, Phil Esposito, answered questions from fans about the past season, the terrible off-season, and the upcoming shortened season.

At midday the players were on the ice and warming up in front of their fans, executing pass drills, one-timers, and slap shots. The practice allowed the fans to see the skill of the off-season acquisitions of Sami Salo from Vancouver and Anders Lindback from Nashville. Most of the players had good form, while others had to shake off some extra rust from the extended off-season.

Saturday the 19th is opening day for the Lightning against their Southeast Division rival, the Washington Capitals. As always, the Capitals look strong and will prove to be a challenge for the Bolts, but they look more than ready to start their sprint to the Stanley Cup.