Bolts fans eager for playoff hockey after season suspended during the pandemic

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As Amalie Arena sits dark the rest of the renewed NHL season, Tampa Bay Lightning fans are looking forward to cheering for their team at local sports bar and restaurants.

“Bunch of people will be able to get together and still root for the Bolts like we’ll be the distant thunder,” said George Marino, the manager at the Press Box Sports Emporium on Dale Mabry in South Tampa.

That’s exactly what Maria Aguayo and her friends did Saturday night during the Lightning game against the Philadelphia Flyers hundreds of miles away in Toronto.

“I don’t even care what month it is,” she said. “I’m so excited to be out watching hockey live and being able to cheer on my Lightning.”

Aguayo said the coronavirus pandemic that forced the sports world to push the pause button back in March is still on her mind.

“Being with your friends that you know you’re safe with but still be careful,” Aguayo said. “We just had that conversation because it is like getting back to normal, but we still have to be safe. We all have our hand sanitizer we all have our masks, we came in with them.”

Patrons are still required to wear a mask when not seated inside the Press Box.

Marino said the support of the South Tampa community that’s been coming to the Press Box for decades helped them through the stay-at-home order in April and the weeks without live games on TV.

“It’s been tough,” he said, “But luckily we have a lot of loyal regulars and good patrons that come in all the time that have kept us afloat. They’ve come in and got ‘to go’s’ a few times a week when we did to go (orders).”

Even though the Bolts lost Saturday night, Aguayo told 8 On Your Side she is thrilled sports are back.

“From the Lightning to the Rays, I’m waiting for the Bucs,” she said. “Yes, any of that is making it feel like normal.”

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