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Tampa Bay Lightning fans celebrate a third straight Stanley Cup Final appearance

Diehard Tampa Bay Lightning fans came out to the Stanley Cup Final game 1 watch party at Amalie Arena Wednesday. Some said they did so because they can't afford the high prices for games 3 and 4 in Tampa.

Minutes before the puck dropped on Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche, the thousands of fans lining up outside Amalie Arena Wednesday night found something to celebrate, breaking into cheers with every clap of thunder.

“It looks like there’s a storm coming,” said Rebecca Stutler of Tampa. “Which is fitting."

Like many fans who beat the approaching storm, Stutler said she, her two sons, and a friend liked the idea of a $10-a-seat watch party.

The longtime Lightning fan hasn't been to any home games this year. As a single mom, she said even regular season games are tough to afford, let alone the price of a ticket to a game in the finals.

Woman standing outside wears a hat. She has two young men on her right and one her left. They're all wearing hockey team t-shirts.
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WUSF Public Media
Rebecca Stutler brought her two sons and their friend to the Lightning watch party Wednesday. They rushed to get into Amalie Arena as rain clouds formed above them.

"I'm in the Fans Only site and most of the tickets that I'm seeing for the upcoming week are $2,500 a ticket and up," Stutler said. "Everyone was trying to get rid of their tickets just to make some money."

While the average price for game one in Denver was over $1,000 a ticket — the highest for a Stanley Cup final in 12 years — it's slightly lower for the games in Tampa.

Tickets for game 3 Monday and game 4 next Wednesday start at $450 in the upper deck, with the resale market offering a spot at center ice at upwards of $1,500.

Vincent Saunders of Brandon came to the watch party with his finance and daughter. They attend several games a year, but won't be at the finals.

"For parents like myself, when you have children, multiple children, with thousand dollar price tags on a ticket, we're probably going to just come to the watch party or just watch it at the house ourselves," said Saunders. "I mean, we don't want to pay that much ourselves to bring the entire family out. That's a vacation to Barbados."

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Jack Prator
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WUSF Public Media
Vincent Saunders, his fiancée and their kids showed up to Wednesday's Stanley Cup final game 1 watch party at Amalie Arena minutes before the game started. Like many others, they chose not to pay the $1,000 some are asking for a single ticket for games 3 or 4 at home.

But one person who will be spending the money for a ticket next week is John Deifer, who showed his love for the team by dying his long beard Lightning blue.

"You don't get too many chances to go to the Stanley Cup finals. So when it presents, you've got to do it," he said. "If you're a true hockey fan, you know."

The two teams' recent ice history may be one reason for the higher prices in Colorado: while the Avalanche haven't made the finals since the 2000-2001 season, the Lightning are pursuing history trying to win a third straight Stanley Cup championship.

The Lightning is the first team to make the final in three consecutive years since the Edmonton Oilers in 1983-85. The Lightning are also looking to be the NHL’s first three-peat champions since the New York Islanders won four straight Cups from 1980-83.

However, the Avalanche drew first blood by beating the Lightning 4-3 in overtime Wednesday to take a 1-0 series lead.

That's not an unusual position for the Lightning this postseason. They dropped game 1 in the opening round to the Toronto Maple Leafs and fell behind 3 games to 2 before winning the last two games in that series.

They also lost the first two games in the Eastern Conference finals to the New York Rangers before winning four straight games.

STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE:

Game 1: Colorado 4, Tampa Bay 3 (OT)
Game 2: Saturday at Colorado, 8
Game 3: Monday at Tampa, 8
Game 4: June 22 at Tampa, 8
*-Game 5: June 24 at Colorado, 8
*-Game 6: June 26 at Tampa, 8
*-Game 7: June 28 at Colorado, 8

*-if necessary

Man wears a hat and a long, bushy beard that's been dyed blue. He stands in front of a lightning bolt sculpture.
Jack Prator
/
WUSF Public Media
Lifelong hockey fan John Deifer says, while he bought playoffs tickets this year, coming to Wednesday's Lightning watch party is as good as going to the game.