Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals 2004: 11
The Stanley Cup Journal

Fans at the St. Pete Times Forum got to see the world premier of the Tampa Bay Lightning's championship season DVD on the arena's scoreboard.
On the afternoon of Monday, June 28, the Stanley Cup was taken to the Tampa Palm Springs Golf Club where sponsors of the Lightning got photos taken out on the links with the trophy. Phil Esposito, now the analyst on Tampa Bay's radio broadcasts, was prominent, telling stories and keeping the mood buoyant.

That evening, the Stanley Cup champions launched the DVD of their victorious 2003-04 season, appropriately titled 'Tampa Bay Lightning: 2003-2004 Stanley Cup Champions.' The sensational video was launched on the floor of the St. Pete Times Forum, where one month before, the team had skated to the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship.

The first public screening of the video took place at six o'clock, and through the evening and three separate showings, more than 2,000 fans got to relive the excitement of the Lightning's run to the Cup. The DVD features highlights of the Lightning's entire playoff series, including triumphs over the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers on the way to facing off against the persistent and challenging Calgary Flames. The entire final game of the Stanley Cup final is included, as are the post-game celebration, interviews with Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis and Smythe star Brad Richards, plus a music video by Earshot and their track, 'Wait.'

Bobby Taylor, the analyst for Lightning TV broadcasts, was on hand through the evening. Taylor was a back-up netminder for the Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers in both 1974 and '75, so this was déjà vu all over again for Bobby.

Ryan and Theresa Feaster, two of general manager Jay Feaster's four children, relax with a new friend.
Lightning fans got to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup — the same Cup, of course, that captain Dave Andreychuk held to the heavens when Commissioner Bettman handed him the trophy on Monday, June 7.

At midnight, the Lightning's Stanley Cup DVD went on sale to the public, and 500 eager fans stood in line at Best Buy on North Dale Mabry in order to be one of the first to add this souvenir to their collections. The first in line to buy the DVD was Don Alfano, who waited six hours to lay claim to owning the first public copy of the video. Alfano has attended all but four home games for Tampa Bay though the franchise's twelve-year history.

Tuesday, June 29, GM Jay Feaster asked that the Stanley Cup join him in Hilton Head, South Carolina for the American Hockey League's annual meetings. Feaster had rented a summer home in the beautiful locale. "The AHL is such a great league; it's like a big family," explained Feaster. "There's no way I couldn't share this moment with my buddies from the AHL."

Phil Esposito, who engineered the awarding of the franchise, examines the Stanley Cup with wife Bridget and friends.
The Stanley Cup travelled from Tampa to Charlotte on its way to Hilton Head. The historic trophy was brought to Jay Feaster, who placed it on a table in his summer home. "Y'know, I haven't really had the opportunity to look at it until now," Jay said, and he and his wife Anne and kids Theresa, Bobby, Libby and Ryan traced their fingers over the engraved names on the Stanley Cup. Jay then had his extended family take a plethora of shots with the Stanley Cup — his kids, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister, brother-in-law, nephews and niece all had photographs taken on the balcony, in the hammock, by the pool and on the porch. Then, Feaster took the Stanley Cup over to the AHL's hospitality suite to share with colleagues. Amongst those gathered were AHL President David Andrews, Al Coates from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Jody Gage, former NHLer who has been general manager of the Rochester Americans for the past several seasons.

Afterwards, the Stanley Cup was taken back to Jay Feaster's residence, where it was washed thoroughly, then filled with popcorn. The family sat together on the chesterfield, watching the Lightning's Stanley Cup DVD. "Daddy," exclaimed four-year old Ryan. "That's you," as he pointed at the TV screen where his Dad held the Cup over his head and screamed as the credits rolled. The video had only just been completed and the Feaster kids had already watched it six times. The night ended with photographs of the four children in bed with the Stanley Cup.

At 6AM, the Stanley Cup was squirreled away on a plane and jetting its way back to Tampa. The official kick-off to the Tampa Bay Lightning's Summer Stanley Cup Tour began Wednesday, June 30, with Phil Esposito getting the honour of being the first to enjoy twenty-four hours with hockey's historic mug.

The Hall of Famer lives near the arena, and was delighted to be the first official recipient. "I am absolutely honoured that I could start the tour," Phil said, beaming. Esposito is the radio analyst, but his roots go much deeper. It was through Phil's dogged determination that Tampa Bay was awarded a franchise that began competing in 1992, with Esposito the Lightning's general manager through the team's first seven seasons.

It's Stanley Cup number 3 for Esposito, who also won two as a Boston Bruins' star (1970 and 1972). The Lightning's TV analyst shared the celebration with patrons at a number of Tampa area restaurants.
When the Cup arrived at one o'clock, Phil's wife Bridget answered the door. Phil arrived home shortly thereafter, and for six hours, posed for photographs with the Stanley Cup for his family and friends. The team's photographer captured each of the pictures, with Phil and the Cup located there in the Espositos' living room. On a shelf behind Phil sat the miniature Stanley Cups Esposito won as part of the championship Boston Bruins' teams in 1970 and 1972. As photos were taken, Phil regaled the assembled with stories of the Big, Bad Bruins and the Summit Series against the Soviet Union in 1972. Several of the guests clutched Phil's recent autobiography, 'Thunder and Lightning,' waiting to get it signed by the legendary star.

Phil continually looked over his shoulder while posing for photos. His grandsons were playing a game, pretending to steal Grandpa Phil's solid gold puck given him by the Bruins in 1971 when Esposito enjoyed his second 100-point season. That year, he led the NHL with 152 points.

Once the photos had been taken in the Esposito home, Phil took the Stanley Cup to three restaurants. The first stop was Malio's Steak House, the restaurant in which Esposito held his initial meeting to bring a franchise to Tampa. Then, it was the Palm Restaurant. Phil and Bridget hosted a private dinner for a select group of guests who enjoyed sumptuous meals washed down by champagne sipped from the Stanley Cup. The last stop was Donatello's. While there visiting the owner, Phil discovered that a young lady was a celebrating her birthday at the restaurant. You can imagine her shock when hockey legend Phil Esposito walked over to her table, placed the Stanley Cup on one edge then led the restaurant in singing 'Happy Birthday.' "Oh my gosh! I can't believe this," she shrieked as the participants laughed at her reaction.

Phil Esposito loved his day with the Cup. "I tell ya, they never had a day with the Stanley Cup when I was playin'," Esposito stated at 12:30 that morning. "I barely even saw the goddamned thing back then. This is a great, great idea!"

John Tortorella is next in line with the Stanley Cup, and you'll find out how the Lightning's head coach celebrated in Wednesday's 'Stanley Cup Journal.'

Kevin Shea is the Manager of Special Projects and Publishing at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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