It doesn't matter if it's awarded in May like it was 40 years ago. It doesn't matter if it's awarded in June like "normal". It doesn't matter if it's awarded in September in front of zero fans due to a global pandemic that had brought the entire world to a halt. When Lord Stanley's Cup is awarded, it is always the greatest and most emotional moment of the year.
From the moment these guys all laced up their first pair of skates, they had dreams of one day hoisting this Cup above their head. As a kid playing against an invisible defense in the driveway, they pretend it's game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and they've just scored the overtime game winner time and time again. And I'm beyond positive that if you took a video of all these guys pretending to win the Cup when they were just 6 or 7 years old, they had the same exact reaction as they had tonight. Hell, probably even more emotional tonight after spending years of their lives building up to the this very moment. That quick skate and turnaround that each player initially gets with the Cup may only last for a few moments, but it was a moment that took an entire lifetime to build up to. And it's fucking beautiful. Absolutely beautiful to see these guys live out the dream that all of us had in the driveway as a young kid.
And to do it in the year 2020?
Listen. I don't know how this year's playoffs are going to be remembered in the future. None of us do. But I sure as shit hope that we make sure to remember that this was arguably the hardest Stanley Cup in the history of the Cup's existence to win. To have to take 3 months off after playing essentially an entire regular season, and then having to pick right back up and play the most intense hockey of the year? A damn near impossible task, and the Lightning managed to make it look so easy. 5 games to erase the demons from last year against Columbus. 5 games against the Boston Bruins. 6 games against the New York Islanders but had the chance to close it out in double overtime of game 5. And then 6 games against the Dallas Stars but had the chance to close it out in double overtime of game 5. At no point did this team have to even worry about the possibility of going home empty handed, and they were able to do it all without their captain for about 2 minutes and 50 seconds of these playoffs.
Sidenote: speaking of Stamkos, I am so glad he got a chance to not only suit up but also sniped that goal in game 3. I'm sure that he would have been just as excited to win the Cup even if he hadn't played at all in these playoffs. The man has earned every bit of this win. But getting a chance to actually play a role in this probably has to feel so much better for him.
It's been a wild ride for the Tampa Bay Lightning over these last 6 years. When they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, you knew that they were going to be an issue for a while. But after two game 7 losses in conference finals, and then getting swept out of the 1st round last year, you had to start thinking to yourself that maybe this team was just destined for heartbreak. But after winning this specific Cup in 2020? They're right up there as one of the most dominant teams of the decade. It'll be interesting to see how things go the further this team gets away from the Yzerman era, but considering the whole core is still locked in for next year I think we can hold off on worrying about that question until summer 2021.
For tonight, what an unbelievable moment for this team. Hope the boys get absolutely #InOne tonight at the hotel. It's gonna be a different scene for sure, but a wild scene nonetheless.