Tampa Bay Lightning head trainer Tom Mulligan & chiropractor Tim Bain may not have laced ‘em up, but they did contribute to the second Stanley Cup in team history!
The first Tampa Bay Lightning game of the NHL postseason went to one overtime, then two, three, four and five.
In between periods, Arbor Greene resident Tom Mulligan, the team’s head trainer, scrambled to tend to cramps and injuries, keep the players hydrated and their energy levels up with grilled chicken, slices of pizza and bananas.
“It was controlled chaos in between periods,” Mulligan says.
And, unbridled joy afterwards. When Brayden Point scored the game-winning goal to give the Lightning the 3-2, five-overtime win over Columbus, it set off a raucous celebration and catapulted Tampa Bay on a run that would eventually lead to the team’s second Stanley Cup championship.
“That night, I felt this could be something special,” Mulligan says. “It was six hours, and just to see the controlled chaos in between periods was something. It really was all hands on deck. We still needed 15 more wins after that, but if that would have turned out differently, who knows what happens?”
The Lightning ended up getting those 15 wins. After dropping the first game of the Stanley Cup finals to Dallas, the Lightning won the next four, including a 2-0 shutout pitched by goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to clinch the title.
For many, including Mulligan — one of the few staffers remaining from the 2004 crew that took home the team’s first Cup — it was a long time coming. There have been a series of close calls in recent years, including a conference finals loss in 2018 and mostly noticeably, a devastating sweep by Columbus in the first round last year after the team tied an NHL record with 62 wins.
“We won it in my second year in the NHL, and I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad,’” Mulligan says, chuckling. “We had most of the team back, we’re going to have more chances. Then the years start ticking by, players come and go, and you realize: it’s not that easy.”
Mulligan is still coming down off the high of his second cup. There are few things like hockey celebrations, and Mulligan says Tampa outdid itself with the homecoming boat parade along the Hillsborough River and subsequent party held at Raymond James Stadium.
The most recognizable trophy in sports, Mulligan says he is hoping to be able to bring the Stanley Cup to New Tampa. It is a tradition that each member of the organization gets to spend at least a day with the trophy. In 2004, he took the Cup to Massachusetts to share with his parents.
While he is not sure of the parameters this year, due to Covid-19, he and wife Kelly have some ideas for a New Tampa celebration.
“That’s the plan,” he says.
But first, some family time is in order. Mulligan spent 65 days in the NHL bubble, first in Toronto and then in Edmonton.
Counting a few days of quarantining before he left Tampa, he was away from wife Kellie and their three children for a total of more than 70 days.
In 2004, only son Tyler had been born; he was 14 months old when the Lightning won the cup. Tyler is now 17-years old and a senior at Wharton, and since, brother Zachary, 15, and sister Abby, 13 have joined the family.
“It was really special coming home with the Cup and seeing them,” Tom says. He laments the sports and school events he has had to miss because of his job, and the bubble isolation made that even more difficult.
“They have had to make a lot of sacrifices over the course of their lives,” he says, but adds that they are all old enough now to truly appreciate what dad does and the significance of winning the Stanley Cup.
And, he was able to return home in time for Abby’s 13th birthday on Oct. 5. He told her before he left Edmonton he was bringing her a special present.
“She probably won’t ever get another gift like it,” he says. — JCC
Bain Helps Victorious Bolts Deal With Aches & Pains
Wesley Chapel resident Tim Bain, D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic), who has been the Lightning’s official team chiropractic physician since 2009, says he actually has been treating Lightning players since a year or two before the Bolts won their first Stanley Cup in 2004.
“I had just moved to the area and was living in West Meadows, along with a number of Lightning players, including Marty St. Louis, Nikolai Khabibulin and Fredrik Modin,” Bain says, “and Tom Mulligan, who was already the team’s trainer, started sending some of the players my way.”
Fast forward to the unique season of 2019-20, and both Mulligan and Bain were among the 52 players, coaches and staff sent by the Bolts to live in the NHL’s “bubble” in Toronto for this year’s no-fans, two-bubble (the other was in Edmonton) playoff format. And, when the Lightning emerged victorious 65 days after first entering the Toronto bubble, Dr. Bain was among those celebrating with the new Cup champs.
“There’s no doubt that hockey players are among the toughest of all professional athletes,” says Bain, whose office is in the Cory Lake Professional Center on Cross Creek Blvd. “They don’t like to come off the ice or complain about their aches and pains. But, once the team started to embrace the idea of chiropractic care, they could see that they could recover from injuries faster and get back on the ice even faster.”
Bain adds that with the even-quicker-than-usual turnaround times between games (because of not having to travel) in this year’s playoff format, he was even busier caring for the players than usual. He also was the person responsible for conducting concussion protocols for the players who sustained head injuries.
One of the Bolts’ players who attracted the most attention for his ongoing injury woes was, of course, team captain Steven Stamkos. Although the nature of his injury was never revealed, Bain says no one worked harder to get himself back into playing shape than Stammer.
“Even though he only played 2:47 in one game (Game 3 of the Cup final series against Dallas) of the entire playoffs,” Bain says, “I think the goal he scored while he was in there got the entire team as excited as the moment we won the Cup. Even though he ended up not seeing the ice again, he gave the whole team such a huge lift.”
Bain agrees with Mulligan that the hardest thing about their time in the bubble for all of the Lightning players and staff was being separated from their families for so long.
“I have a tendency to get homesick anyway, even just on road trips,” Bain says. “But, having to spend 70 days away from my wife and children was even harder. Especially when we shifted to the Edmonton bubble (for the last two playoff series), there was literally nothing for us to do. Being able to come home and celebrate winning the Cup with our families and the fans was so amazing.”
And, Bain adds, the goal now is to “bring the Cup home again next year. It can’t be more challenging than this year has been.”
He says that he plans to be on hand when next year’s team has to recover from injuries and everyday aches and pains. “I definitely hope to be part of another celebration!” — GN