Maria Melee is a writer, web designer and overall master of the digital world. She caught our eye on Twitter, won our hearts with one of the best personal blogs online, and kept them for life when we found out that she loved hockey as much as we do. We like that in a girl, and are honored to feature this diehard Tampa fan in our latest installment of Why I Love…
When I was tiny, my dad used to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the Bruins play. I’d stand up and put my hand over my heart while Rene Rancourt sang the National Anthem and sometimes Canada’s anthem. (I had a weird crush on him. No lie.) I was a Bruins fan, through and through.
In 1992, when I was twelve, we got our own team. A hockey team in Florida, which is like a bobsled team in Jamaica, but cooler. Because we have psychotic Southern fans.
The Tampa Bay Lightning started playing in a tiny Expo Hall in Tampa at the fairgrounds. In 1994, they moved to my hometown and started playing in a gigantic stadium dubbed The Thunderdome. That coincided with me rounding the bend into teenager-dom and becoming 110% boy crazy.
I lived and breathed hockey. I went to nearly every home game. General admission tickets were less than $10. My mom would drop me off before the game, and my best friend and I would buy cheap seats and sneak down to the good ones during the practice before the game. We sat along the boards. We sat directly next to the penalty box. We collected pucks and sticks. We painted our faces and made signs and started the wave and tried to get on the Jumbotron. I attended one of those charity events and skated around with the players and nearly died of infatuation. I was for-effing-real in love with #39, Enrico Ciccone, the badass defenseman who kind of looked like Casey Jones from the Ninja Turtles.
My jersey is signed by the entire roster of the 95-96 team, including the coach Terry Crisp and commentator Bobby “The Chief” Taylor. (My friend and I would stalk the players’ exit after the games. We were such nutballs.) When we went to the playoffs that season, I was at the game that for years held the highest attendance record in the NHL with over 28,000 fans.
On the very last game in the Thunderdome, we hopped the fences half an hour after the game and ran across center ice to sit on the bench. I can only imagine that the security guards took pity on the two tall, nerdy girls having a complete spaz attack over sitting where the actual players had sat. That night, we ended up wandering to the locker room and standing around with the players’ wives and kids. To this day, I have no idea how we managed to pull that off.
Then the lockout happened and the Lightning never seemed to bounce back. Shit happened. I graduated high school and left for college and rarely went to games anymore.
My team sucked. But they were still my team.
Then, in 2002, things turned around for the Lightning. We picked up Vinny Lecavalier and my all time hockey crush of the universe, Marty (the hockey hobbit) St. Louis, and we started making noise again.
In 2004, the year I got married, my boys went to the playoffs. On the day I got married, I kept running downstairs from the reception to the bar to check the score. The next morning, we left on a cruise out of Tampa. It basically turned into the Hockey Shenanigans cruise, with a crew full of Canadians and a whole bunch of Tampa Bay fans watching each game in the theater on the ship, shit talking and screaming and drinking. I’ve never had so much fun ever, in my life. My poor husband had no choice but to get dragged along in my frenzy.
The Stanley Cup finals went seven games. By Game 7, we were back home in Gainesville. I sat on my futon with my best dude friend and didn’t breathe for the entire game. At one point when we scored, we screamed so loud my cat literally ran up the wall until he hit the ceiling. Shenanigans! Best night of my life! God, it was amazing.
Now, as I round toward my seventh wedding anniversary, my boys are back in the playoffs. They have to win tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins, the team I grew up cheering for.
They have to win tomorrow night.
And this time, I’ll be in the cheap seats in my 16-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning jersey. And I will believe, and I will scream myself hoarse, and I will wonder when I got older than the players, and I will remember being a little girl in love with the tough guys on skates.
Let’s go Lightning.
Image courtesy of Maria.