This is a good time to be a sports fan in Tampa. Well, maybe too good.
You see, for the first time in the team's history, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the Major League Baseball Playoffs, and they're scheduled to play play host to Game Two of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night at 8:07 p.m.
Unfortunately, across town at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning are scheduled to host the Carolina Hurricanes in their own home opener. Wanting to be civic-minded and to not force local fans of both teams to choose which event to attend or watch on television, management sought to move the start time of the game to earlier in the day.
But because the Hurricanes play another game the night before at home in Raleigh against the Panthers, they had the right of first refusal on the change under NHL rules.And they said no. Erik Erlendsson over at Bolts Report writes that he doesn't think the request was all that big of a deal, and wonders why Carolina was so small-minded in turning it down. Which is where Luke DeCock, 'Canes beat writer for the News and Observersteps in:
But there's a subtext here. In the summer of 2006, the Lightning added an ice-level club to their arena and closed off the tunnel that connected the visiting locker room to the visiting bench. It was a double-whammy for visiting teams, not only forcing them to walk about 100 yards to get to the ice while depriving them of in-game access to their dressing room but forcing them to walk through a bar full of possibly inebriated Lightning fans to get to the ice.
Somehow, the NHL decided this was permissible - nominal, in fact. I wouldn't expect any NHL team to do the Lightning any favors, though.
Then again, that was a decision that was made under previous ownership in Tampa, so it would seem a little small-minded to hold Len Barrie and Oren Koules responsible for a decision made by the Bill Davidson regime. And further, while I was shocked to read about this -- somehow the "Tampa Trek" through an open bar had escaped by notice for the past two seasons -- I think we can conclude that it's not exactly a big deal considering we haven't heard of any incidents in the ensuing two seasons since the change.
Thanks to our colleague J.P. for the heads up.