It’s hard to believe that both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Taste of New TampaTM (see page 3) are celebrating their respective 20th anniversaries this season, but even harder for some of us to fathom how we survived until January without Lightning hockey.

I attended this year’s opening night on Jan. 19, a thrilling 6-3 thrashing of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, and I have to say that I hadn’t seen the crowd at the newly revamped Tampa Bay Times Forum this amped up since the Stanley Cup FINALS (which, of course, Tampa Bay won) in 2004.

Owner Jeff Vinick pumped about $40 million in renovations to the Forum, including adding the biggest Jumbotron scoreboard I’ve ever seen, but it would’ve all been for naught had the National Hockey League (NHL) owners and players not come to an agreement in time to end the owners’ lockout of the players in time to salvage the 2012-13 season.

But, better late than never for our Bolts, who have always had a huge following here in New Tampa, and have started the season 6-1 and in first place in the NHL’s Southeast Division, even though last-year’s 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos had only five of the team’s league-leading 37 goals (a 5.3-goals-per-game average) so far. New goalie Anders Lindback has been as good as advertised and the addition of speedy 5’-8” winger Cory Conacher and defensemen Matt Carle and Sammy Salo have given the team new firepower at both ends of the ice. Go Bolts! — GN

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