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Boat parade: How the Lightning and fans celebrated in downtown Tampa

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 7/12/2021 Gabrielle Calise, Tampa Bay Times
a man standing next to a body of water: Jim Schaller, 55, drove from Orlando to Tampa on the morning of the Lightning boat parade to get a good spot by 9 a.m. © Mari Faiello/Times Jim Schaller, 55, drove from Orlando to Tampa on the morning of the Lightning boat parade to get a good spot by 9 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are celebrating their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship with a boat parade down the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. And yes, there will be plenty of that beer made out of the ice they played on.

Players will board the boats at 10 a.m. on Davis Islands, with the parade starting by 11 a.m. After the parade, the party will continue at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park for a celebration event and concert. The 25-acre park is located just north of the University of Tampa and across the Hillsborough River from the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts at 1001 North Blvd. in Tampa.

a group of people on a boat: Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Times has reporters and photographers throughout the event to keep you posted on all the happenings, from the most spirited fans to any potential tossing of the Stanley Cup à la Tom Brady.

a group of people standing next to a body of water: Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper celebrates the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory during a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper celebrates the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory during a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

That’s all, folks

As of 3:40 p.m., the Tampa Bay Lightning called off the celebration event due to the weather.

Hardcore fans sticking around

As the storm picked up, more and more fans ran off to find shelter. Those remaining were rewarded with players bringing the Stanley Cup through the park.

“Back to back!” chanted the crowd. A shirtless Yanni Gourde body surfed across the stage on a trolley.

The ones who stayed cheered for every lightning bolt.

“They told us be the thunder, so we’re here,” one fan said. “We’re Floridians. We’re used to this.”

Lightning meets lightning

With the celebration and concert at Julian B Lane Riverfront Park approaching, some kept an eye on the weather. The afternoon forecast calls for thunderstorms, warned Bay News 9 evening meteorologist Brian McClure.

Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

As of 2:40 p.m., the mostly blue sky was starting to darken and drizzle, said Times reporter Matt Cohen from downtown. Less than 10 minutes later, fans heard lightning. Then it started to pour.

Juan Alvarez called in sick to work just to see the parade. He was here last year, but he knows that even in Tampa Bay’s run of titles, parades don’t come every year.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning fans line the Riverwalk while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

But after a strong thunderstorm sent the crowd scurrying, Alvarez took cover outside the men’s bathroom. As the rain poured down, even after driving from Orlando, Alvarez was ready to go home.

”No matter what, I still got my beer,” he said.

An emotional day

a man riding on the back of a boat in the water: Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn drives a jet ski while holding the Stanley Cup as teammate Nikita Kucherov gestures to the crowd while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory with a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn drives a jet ski while holding the Stanley Cup as teammate Nikita Kucherov gestures to the crowd while celebrating the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory with a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

Fans along the riverbank at Julien B Lane park started chants of “Champa Bay”, lifted their kids on their shoulders and strained their arms just for even slightest glimpse of the hardware their favorite team had just won.

a man riding on the back of a boat in the water: A man rides a stand up paddle board while waving a blow-up replica of the Stanley Cup at Curtis Hixon Park along the Hillsborough River during the Stanley Cup Champions Boat Parade, Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE/Times A man rides a stand up paddle board while waving a blow-up replica of the Stanley Cup at Curtis Hixon Park along the Hillsborough River during the Stanley Cup Champions Boat Parade, Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

Conn Smythe winner and shirtless goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stood on the hull of his boat tossing T Shirts into the sun-soaked crowd. Jon Cooper’s boat came in toward the shore as he, too, wanted to hype up the crowd. Slowly all the players came past, standing and videoing the scene. They were taking in the moment, the second straight year of glory.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Fans gather at Curtis Hixon Park along the Hillsborough River during the Stanley Cup Champions Boat Parade, Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE/Times Fans gather at Curtis Hixon Park along the Hillsborough River during the Stanley Cup Champions Boat Parade, Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

Many fans were duped by Stanley Cups made of beer cans as the real trophy came past on a jet ski, safely tucked in the legs of Alex Killorn. The players did not throw the trophy — they kept the divers dry. Owner Jeff Vinik was the closest to dropping the Cup in the water.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, center, celebrates the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory during a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. © Dirk Shadd/Times Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, center, celebrates the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory during a boat parade Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.

When the boats came past, fans moved back into the park and in front of the stage. They stood back in the sun, and are waiting. Waiting to see Lord Stanley one more time. Waiting to hear the player speeches they didn’t get a year ago.

Wilson Valenzuela’s whistle pierced the air at the Curtis Hixon Riverwalk. He blew it loudly as the boats cruised by. This was a dream for the Columbia native.

”I wanted to cry,” Valenzuela, 53, said.

Valenzuela moved to Tampa in 1976 after fleeing Columbia due to political violence. He started in Brooklyn, then Boston, and finally found a home in Tampa Bay. He’s all about the Lightning. After last year’s Stanley Cup win, he even scored a selfie with Nikita Kucherov after learning some Russian to speak with him.

Lightning treats and swag abound

Amy Stack, Lauren Stamm and Brittany Howerton were among the lucky fans to catch some Bolts merchandise thrown off boats by the players. Howerton traveled all the way from Virginia for the parade. She snagged a “#1 bulls—t” shirt from Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev.

Bake’n Babes announced a special Stanley Cup shake to celebrate the boat parade. The Armature Works bakery, located on the parade route, will be selling the decadent treat until supplies run out today. Wrote food and dining critic Helen Freund:

“In typical Bake’n Babes fashion (owner Julie Curry debuts a new over-the-top shake every month), the toppling Stanley Cup Works features a blue and white saccharine extravaganza of vanilla soft serve ice cream topped with blue and silver sprinkles, a vanilla cupcake with an NHL whistle, cotton candy, an Oreo ice cream sandwich, rock candy and a sparkler.”

Pepsi, meanwhile, is giving out Lightning-themed sodas and posters.

A review of the Coors Light beer made with arena ice

Tampa Bay Times columnist Stephanie Hayes bravely ventured out to the boat parade with one mission: to get her hands on some booze. Watch her try the much-discussed beverage Coors Light brewed with ice shavings collected at Amalie Arena during Game 1.


Video: Stanley Cup gets dented during Lightning celebrations (WTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg)

Stanley takes a jet ski ride

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn drove a jet ski with the 34.5 pound Stanley Cup balanced between his legs. Teammate Nikita Kucherov, perched behind him, waved to fans in the crowd.

Meanwhile, Lightning coach Jon Cooper shotgunned a beer, firing up the crowd as his boat passed fans. Andrei Vasilevskiy and other players flung T-shirts and beer cans to cheering people on land.

Check out some of the other sites from the Times photo team:

Watch live

Didn’t get a chance to head out to the water? Bay News 9 shared a live stream for folks to watch from home.

Time for a beer update

Earlier this morning, the Times spotted Kuch on his boat next to a Stanley Cup made out of Bud Lights.

On dry land, fans lined up at the Bud Light booth in Julian B Lane Riverfront Park to grab a commemorative bottle.

There’s also plenty of Champions Ice, the new drink from Coors Light made with ice from Amalie Arena. We sent columnist Stephanie Hayes to do an official taste test. Watch this space.

Stanley on board

Lord Stanley has been spotted on the same boat as Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Phil Pritchard, the official keeper of the Stanley Cup, followed on a boat closely behind.

One can assume that he’ll be on the lookout for any funny business, since the last time the cup took a swim Pritchard made player Dominik Hašek give it back early.

Keeping an eye on the other kind of lightning

While fans eyes are peeled for Lightning players on the water, there’s also bolts from above to consider.

Severe storms are expected this afternoon and into the evening in the Tampa Bay area. The storms could bring strong winds, lightning and large hail as Tampa Bay celebrates the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory with a boat parade and an afternoon celebration at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.

As of 11 a.m., the sky was looking clear.

A Bolts tribute made out of...bolts

Jorge Roldan stood at the Riverwalk in his red banana and painted.

Roldan is a Puerto Rican artist who works under the name “Rojotheartist.”Leaning behind him on the light post was a Tampa Bay Lightning-themed art piece. After weeks of the city chanting “Let’s go Bolts” in the playoffs, Roldan, 25, was inspired.

”It’s be cool to make a Bolts piece out of actual Bolts,” Roldan said.

He used old tools from a friend and bolts from Home Depot, then tied it all together with acrylic paint, epoxy, and LED lights. It was 30 hours of work and as the parade goes on, Roldan is hoping to find a buyer.

Players boarding boats

Lightning players are now starting to get on boats at Davis Islands. They’ll head into the Seddon Channel toward downtown.

A little Lightning fan

Lily Davis wasn’t going to miss her first championship parade. She’s four months old today and, hey, she’s already missed the last two boat parades.

Her father, Josh Davis, 29, wants her to grow up a Lightning fan. She wants her to go the Lightning’s summer camps and as girl’s ice hockey continue to grow, he wants Lily to learn to skate.

She’s too young for all that now, but she was born into a burgeoning hockey family in what Davis called a dynasty. For him, this parade is just that much more special because he can introduce his daughter to the team he loves.

”This is what it’s all about,” he said.

Josh Davis has been a lifelong Lightning fan, but in 2019 he married his wife who wasn’t. She’s from Mississippi. But in 2020, Davis asked her to watch the Lightning’s playoff game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was the game that got her hooked. The Lightning won 3-2 in in five overtimes, a year after the Blue Jackets had swept away a President’s Trophy winning season. Suddenly, Josh Davis had a Lightning family.

”We live and breathe this team,” Josh Davis said. “We’ve become a hockey family.”

He’s taking Lily to see parade so she can live and breathe the same.

Fans are ready to party

The Lightning Ladies came to Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park last night to scope out the best parking spots and place to sit for the parade. And just a few hours later, the Ladies were first in the park and in the front row — Lightning towels laid out on the ground and blue Jell-o shots passed around before 9 a.m.

At least that’s what Jody Mann, 53, Linda Burrows, 50, Doreen Brooks, 54 and Rhonda Wagner, 63, call themselves. They’ve had a group chat for over four seasons called the same. They celebrate every win, complain about every penalty and they each light up a goal light in their houses for every time the Lightning score. For them, this parade has been a year in the making.

”Seeing the Cup since I didn’t see it last year,” Wagner said of what excited her most.

They all wore shirts that said “#1 Bulls—t”, a quote Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov used many times in press conferences.

”I need a replay of drunk Kuch,” Brooks said.

From their spot by the stage, they might not be able to see the parade run along the river behind the stage, and the players won’t take that stage for hours to come. But they’ve waited a year for this, what’s a few more hours anyway?

Jim Schaller couldn’t miss Monday’s Lightning boat parade. Having missed Tampa’s previous two boat parade celebrations (the Lightning’s 2020 parade last year and the Bucs’ Super Bowl parade earlier this year), Schaller made the drive over from Orlando to get to Tampa around 9 a.m.

Donning an old white Lightning Dino Ciccarelli jersey, Schaller adjusted his work schedule to come to the party (he works in sales). His friends weren’t so lucky, so he’s hanging out along the railway at the Convention Center with other Lightning fans.

”It’s awesome because it’s back-to-back No. 1,” Schaller, 55, said, “and No. 2, with everything that went on last year, we’re able to celebrate with everybody now. It’s cool.”

Schaller loves how Tampa is unlike any other city in that it can do a boat parade celebration like such.

”Between the Bucs and the Bolts,” Schaller said, “it’s incredible.”

Schaller, who moved to Orlando in 1991, recalls bus trips he used to take to watch the Lightning when the franchise opened in 1992. He connected with some of the players having a Midwest background and the rest was history.

With three Cups in the franchise’s short history, Schaller said the team has proven itself as one of the “legitimate” ones in the league.

”(They’ve) become a party of history in the short time they’ve been around,” Schaller said. “They’ve done incredible... It’s why they call it Champa Bay, right?”

• • •

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