By Pat Carragher - July 08, 2021
When the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020, fans had to settle for celebrating from the comfort of their own homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For their second championship in as many years it was a different picture. More than 18,000 screaming fans got to watch Bolts captain Steven Stamkos lift the Stanley Cup in person after the team defeated the Montreal Canadiens in five games. For Moffitt Cancer Center team members in attendance, the win marked a major milestone and moment of normalcy as the pandemic winds down.
“After a year of being in quarantine it was great to see everyone there feeling safe and being able to enjoy the game,” said Dr. Doug Letson, Moffitt’s Physician-In-Chief. “Getting out with a group like that and celebrating is something I’ll cherish forever.”
Letson has been a Lightning fan since the team’s inaugural season in 1992-93, when he attended games at the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
“It’s a rare opportunity to be able to go to a Stanley Cup Final and see your home team win that game,” said Letson. “I was outside the arena in 2004 and enjoyed it with the crowd, but this was a lot different witnessing history being made inside. It’s one of those things you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Moffitt interventional radiologist Dr. Nainesh Parikh was not only in attendance for the Bolts win last night, but was also part of the limited capacity crowd of frontline health care heroes who got to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl back in February.
“It’s been a rough year for health care workers,” said Parikh. “But to see everyone in such a positive spirit, the pictures and videos don’t even do it justice. It’s something we’ve missed out on the past year and a half. The atmosphere was electric. “
Dr. Philippe Spiess is the assistant chief of Surgical Services and senior member of the Department of Genitourinary Oncology at Moffitt. He was also born and raised in Montreal and grew up a Canadiens fan. When he moved to Tampa 14 years ago, he says it was hard not to become a Lightning fan.
“In Montreal it’s so hard to get tickets,” said Spiess. “I became a Lightning season ticket holder over ten years ago and just seeing this team grow has turned me into an all-Bolts fan.”
For Spiess, watching the Lightning celebrate in an empty arena last year was bittersweet, but last night’s game provided a much-needed escape from the pandemic mindset.
“You wanted to celebrate and be part of it, but you couldn’t,” said Spiess. “But last night was surreal. It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening. It was a little emotional to see it and be part of it. In spite of what we’ve endured the last year living through a pandemic, this moment made you feel alive again and you feel normal. It’s one of the rare times where you don’t even think about what you’ve been through. Most people are vaccinated and feel comfortable being next to each other. We’re actually back to living, celebrating and being part of this.”