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Sports Leaders Hope Stanley Cup Will Help The Region’s ‘Champa Bay’ Reputation

Tampa Bay Lightning playing at Amalie Arena
Chris O'Meara
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) holds up the Prince of Wales trophy for head coach Jon Cooper after defeating the New York Islanders during Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tampa.

For the second time this year, the Tampa Bay region is the center of attention for professional sports.

Defending NHL Stanley Cup champions the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Montreal Canadiens Monday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s been four months since Tampa hosted Super Bowl LV, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first team crowned NFL champions on home turf.

Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, says that big game served as a model for the Stanley Cup.

“It gave us a chance to showcase how our community could help jumpstart a return to live events and that events could take place safely,” he said.

Last year’s Stanley Cup Final were played in Canada due to COVID restrictions. Higgins says that makes this year’s series even more special for Lightning fans.

“It's a stage that we feel like our community deserves to be on. It just showcases everything that's new and different in our community,” he said.

COVID restrictions will be in place at Amalie Arena. Attendance was increased to 18,600 before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, and fans must wear a cloth face covering. Tampa will host the first two games. The series moves to the Bell Centre in Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

The Tampa Bay region could be host to a third pro sports championship this year, if the Rays return to the World Series.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.