by Jason Howard Kelly
Planning to travel to Tampa, Fla., to see the Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
Leave that Sidney Crosby jersey at home. At least if you have seats along the glass.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has barred fans from wearing visiting team gear in select areas of Amalie Arena during the 2015-16 playoffs, including seats in the first two rows and other high-priced sections.
It’s an effort to increase the team’s home-ice advantage and fend off transplants who moved to Florida in search of sunny weather but never left their home team behind. The policies, according to the team’s website, bar any attire, apparel, clothing, accessories, flags, noisemakers and other gear “branded with the name, logo, or registered mark(s) of the then-current 2015-2016 playoff opponent of the Lightning” — in this case, the Penguins.
How pathetic is this? The Tampa Bay Lightning are so worried about how their stadium crowd will look on TV that they are banning people from wearing Penguins gear. These fans have paid roughly $600-$700 for tickets to sit in those seats and they’re not allowed to wear what they want? That is downright ridiculous.
Apparently these, “select areas” of the arena where fans are not allowed to wear Penguins gear makes up for roughly 10% of the Amalie Arena. That means, based on the Amalie Arena’s total capacity, that roughly 2,000 seats are in the proverbial restricted zone. However, these are also some of the more expensive seats in the arena since they are in the first two rows near the glass, as well as in some of the suites. Punishing the people who paid the most to sit in your arena is an extremely poor idea, and it makes the Tampa Bay Lightning look like just another weak, phony, small-market team.
This is the kind of nonsense that only happens when small-market teams with fair weather and, quite frankly, disinterested fan bases make it deep into the NHL playoffs. Having lived in Tampa for over 4 years when I attended the University of Tampa I can tell you first hand that this is not a passionate hockey fan base. Don’t get me wrong, there are some small sects of Lightning fans that are just as rabid and passionate as any other fan base in the NHL. For the most part, however, Tampa is a city made up of young college students who come from the north to enjoy the weather (such as myself). Most of the young hockey fans who live in Tampa are from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. During my time at U Tampa I saw more license plates around campus from those areas than I did from Florida. That is just the reality of what Florida is. It is a tropical haven for northerners. This is why the Lightning struggle to maintain the appearance of a passionate hockey town. There just aren’t many true, die-hard Tampa Bay Lightning fans.
And so the plague of small-market mediocrity continues to spread in this year’s NHL playoffs. True hockey fans had better be rooting for a Pittsburgh Penguins vs. St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup Final, because if we get stuck with Tampa Bay vs. San Jose it is going to be BORING. Talk about two lame, disinterested, boring fan bases.
So to the Tampa Bay Lightning I’ll finish by saying this: you are in no place to be making demands of your paying customers. Try acting like a real hockey team for once and let visiting fans wear whatever they want. After all, if your Lightning fans are so passionate and rabid about your team as you claim they are then they will make it a very unpleasant experience for any visiting Penguins fans, right?
They don’t care, and you know they don’t care. Get rid of this asinine and draconian jersey restriction and just be happy that you’re selling any tickets in the first place.