Dhe approximately 18,000 spectators at the Amalie Arena in Tampa went nuts. Every club, foot or body that stood in the way of a puck fired by the Montreal Canadiens was cheered frenetically – and then the Tampa Bay Lightning title defense was perfect. In front of their own fans, who were only able to watch the triumph in September last year from afar. Corona.
But now the season in the best ice hockey league in the world has ended, which once again had to struggle with the effects of the pandemic until the end, with the same images from the European Football Championship: people hugging in the stands and happy , sweaty athletes on the pitch.
“These players had to work under the most difficult conditions. Not only last season, also this season, “said NHL boss Gary Bettman on Wednesday evening (local time) before the handover of the Stanley Cup to Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “It’s incredible. It’s such a cliché, but there are no words, ”said Stamkos after the 1-0 win against the record champions through Ross Colton’s goal. “It is great.”
52 games postponed
Since the National Hockey League’s salary cap was introduced in 2005, only the Pittsburgh Penguins have won this famous trophy in two consecutive years. For the Lightning it is the third title in its history.
New divisions, no main round matches between teams from Canada and the USA, a strict test regiment, distance rules in dressing rooms, hardly any freedom of movement during away games – the NHL tried to make the season possible with many measures in the midst of the pandemic, but again and again came up against its limits. There were multiple outbreaks in teams, 52 games had to be postponed in connection with the virus, a dozen of them several times.
The effects could be felt right up to the final series, games three and four in Montreal saw only 3,500 fans in the ice rink, the authorities in Canada did not allow more. In Florida, however, which had already let 24,385 spectators into the stadium when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs in February, there were more and more in the course of the playoffs.
Players and fans alike celebrated each other after the success. One professional in the blue jersey with the white numbers after the other made a lap around the ice alone with the trophy held high over his head and let himself be celebrated. Alex Killorn, injured after a blocked shot in the first game and no longer injured, filmed himself with the fans behind the plexiglass windows during another lap of honor and said, looking at the win against the team from his home country: “I know not at all whether I can come back. But I’ll let everyone know when I’m there. “
Pat Maroon also got his share of the applause – becoming only the fourth player in league history to win the Stanley Cup for three consecutive years. In 2019 he won the trophy with the St. Louis Blues, in 2020 and 2021 now with the Lightning. NHL boss Gary Bettman presented the trophy for the most valuable player in the final series to Lightning goalkeeper Andrej Wassilewski.
For the Canadiens, however, the season ended with a great disappointment after the fourth defeat in the fifth game of the final series. As the team with the fewest main round wins of all teams in the playoffs, they were the underdogs in every series, but with each passing day the belief in an end to the 28-year long dry spell of Canadian teams grew. Since the NHL record champions won the last of 24 final wins in 1993, no team from the motherland of ice hockey has raised the Stanley Cup. Next attempt: 2022. Perhaps then NHL star Leon Draisaitl will also be involved with his Edmonton Oilers.