TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sunday is a big day for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning play their first game in the Stanley Cup semi-finals, the puck drops at 3:00 pm.
The Lightning are starting a series at home for the first time this postseason as they take on the New York Islanders.
Teams did not meet during the condensed 56-game regular season, which was limited to divisional play due to coronavirus.
Sunday’s opener is a best-of-7 rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning won that in 6 games.
With the Bolts at home for the first 2 games of the series, local businesses said it’s helping charge up the Bay Area economy.
“We’re very happy people want to come out, enjoy a good dinner, watch the game. We notice when games are coming up we have to be ready, everyone is coming out to have a good time. So it’s been good, it’s been really good,” said Angel Campos, Datz Tampa General Manager.
Campos said the sporting events are coming at a good time because COVID was challenging. “Luckily we have a great support system. Tampa, the neighborhood we’re in, has been a huge help. We’ve had tons of followers and people who come 2-3 times a week and that’s how we made it through COVID,” Campos said.
Peter Brudny is proud to live in Tampa and is always happy when there’s a home game. “Seeing the team come together like this, the whole community is getting together, it’s great,” Brundy said.
Brundy agreed with Campos that the local impact is evident.
“It’s great for the economy. At the Tampa Convention Center, we’ve got an almost 100-foot boat docked out here, people from all over are coming in, it’s great,” Brundy said.
Brundy said he looks forward to the bolts going all the way. “Go lightning, everyone is thrilled, just really thrilled!” he said.
Saturday, the Bolts held a drive-thru pep rally to get fans charged up. ‘Thunderbug’, the Bolts mascot, helped hand out free shirts, yard signs, and street hockey sticks.
8 On Your Side spoke with one woman from New York who said something that may surprise you.
“I’m a Long Islander, but I’m going to say ‘Go Bolts!’. I grew up on Long Island…but, Go Bolts!” said Gayle Dickerson, who went to the pep rally.
“It’s unbelievable, Bolts will win in 6 [is my prediction]…we’re going to win it back to back!” said another fan smiling out his car window.
Game 2 in the series is Tuesday night at 8:00 pm.
WATCH CHRISTINE MCLARTY’S FULL STORY TONIGHT ON WFLA.