The Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the last two seasons of the North American ice hockey league (NHL), qualified ice hockey matches for their third consecutive final by eliminating the New York Rangers 4-2 on aggregate on Saturday.
The Lightning, champions of the Eastern Conference, will face the Colorado Avalanche, who swept the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 in the Western Conference final, in the Stanley Cup starting Wednesday.
Tampa Bay clinched the ticket with a dramatic comeback in the playoffs against the Rangers, who had opened with a big lead by winning the first two games.
The Lightning then turned the playoffs around with four straight wins, the latest of which came on Saturday by a score of 2-1.
Captain Steven Stamkos scored both goals for the defending champions, sparking jubilation among the 19,000 fans at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
“These are the games you live for as a kid,” said Canada’s Stamkos. “To make it to the finals three years in a row is an amazing thing and to be a part of it tonight was certainly the icing on the cake.”
The Lightning are now aiming to become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders won four between 1980 and 1983.
No team has qualified for three straight NHL Finals since the Edmonton Oilers did it from 1983-85.
Full screenAn arena worker prepares the rink for Game One between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning Bruce BennettGetty Stanley Cup tickets
Fans hoping to catch one of the final games will need to have deep pockets and that particularly applies to Denver based ice hockey lovers where tickets are over four times as expensive as they are to catch one of the games in Florida.
Tickets to watch the Avalanche at the 20,000 capacity Ball Arena located in downtown Denver start at $879 for game 1 but increase to $1000 for Game 2 and 5 on June 18/24 respectively.
Not famed for being a hot-bed for ice hockey, tickets for games at the Amalie Arena in Tampa are a little more affordable with tickets being advertised from $279. However a cursory search via Ticketmaster shows the lowest ‘terrace’ ticket for the first game in Florida now costing over $500 as fans snap up the final tickets ahead of what could be an historical Finals for the Lightning.
Thousands Of Dollars At Stake For Hockey Fans Who Buy Tickets From Unknown Sellers
Fans paid record-high ticket prices for game one of the Stanley Cup Final. Resale tickets averaged over $1,000 on one third-party site. Tampa Police are warning fans about the fraudsters who target them. .
TAMPA BAY, Fla. — Game one tickets for the Stanley Cup Final broke resale records, according to third-party seller Vivid Seats. The online ticket resale site now shows tickets for the next several games between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche running between a few hundred and over $12,000 each.
The prices are way up compared to previous years, making the stakes higher for die-hard fans willing to pay to watch all the action on the ice in person. And that’s why Tampa Police will be out, in force, around Amalie Arena before the puck drops, rooting out criminals hawking fake tickets.
Tampa Police Cpl. Stanley Merchant said the police officers assigned to the unit know the regulars who sell legitimate tickets on the street. And he advises ticket hunters to check with one of those officers before purchasing from an individual selling around the arena.
And the biggest red flag, according to Corporal Merchant, is the offer to sell you a paper ticket.
“There are no paper tickets at all,” he said.
Corporal Merchant also recommends using caution when buying online.
“There are people who, if you get online, will tell you if they’ve had issues with this website or that website,” he said. “You might have to do a little research.”
Pinellas County Consumer Protection Investigator Anna Marie Fiallos told ABC Action News your payment method can make all the difference should the online deal go south. Her advice:
“No gift cards, don’t pay by cash. Don’t wire money. Those are all the same as cash, so once you send it your money is good as gone.”
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Ryan Clark can live with being banned from Avalanche home games right now. Because, dang it, The Lord and Cale Makar as his witnesses, he’d do it again. Stanley Cup and all. In a heartbeat.
“I told myself at the time, ‘This is gonna (stink) if they make the playoffs,’” Clark laughed from his home in Arvada, where he’s watched the best six months of Avs hockey in a generation play out from a distance.
“But when someone asked me, ‘Where do you think Kyle is now?’ I told them, ‘That Zamboni spread his (backside) all over this ice. And he is embedded into this ice for the remainder (of the season).’”
Kyle is Kyle Wayne Stark. Ryan and Kyle were close friends, the best of pals, for more than a dozen years until the latter’s sudden death last Dec. 21. They were brothers in burgundy and blue, even going in on Avs season tickets together two years ago.
It takes a village to lift a Cup. It takes Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog, hockey ninjas on a mission. It takes Colorado general manager Super Joe Sakic working the trade deadline the way Igor Stravinsky worked a piano. It takes somebody different picking up the rope every night.
Ask Clark, though, and he’ll tell you it took a little bit of Kyle, too. That his friends’ ashes are still a part of that ice, still a part of those boards, still a part of the story. That the Avs’ flight to Cup glory has come, in part, on cherub’s wings.
“You know that baseball movie, ‘Angels in the Outfield?’” Clark said, laughing again. “This is the hockey version. Right here.”
Operation Kyle came about during the reception, after Stark, just 31 years of age, was laid to rest, a funeral that featured mourners in Avs sweaters and Kyle’s mom, Stacey, handing out hockey pucks.
Clark was one of a group of friends who also walked away with a portion of Ryan’s ashes. After a post-funeral conversation with Stark’s stepfather, Jason, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his piece of one of the best friends he’d ever had.
“This was upon sober thinking,” Clark said. “(We) really had come to the conclusion, myself and his stepdad, that one of us was probably going to end up in jail doing this. We had already come to terms with it. ‘Well, OK, if this happens, it happens.’”
Kyle’s stepfather, Jason Marston, had tickets to Avs-Maple Leafs on Jan. 8. The pair had finished a pregame dinner at the Breckenridge Brewery Mountain House, 10 minutes before the first period, when Ryan turned to Marston.
“You know what? It’s ‘Go’ time,” Clark said. “It’s absolutely ‘Go’ time.’ I promised that I would get this guy on the ice, because (that’s) truly where he belongs. And this (team) was his love more than anything else in the world.”
Clark had snuck a small Ziploc baggie into Ball Arena with some of Kyle’s remains bouncing along inside. With Jason’s help, he managed to shake said remains over the glass, in the corner nearest the Leafs’ bench.
“I’d gotten a good part of him over and just kind of (put) the rest of it through the glass to make sure I got it in there,” Clark recalled.
As Clark turned to head back up the steps, an usher stopped him.
“Hey, man, what was that?” he asked.
“I gotta be honest with you,” Clark replied. “It was my buddy.”
The usher just stared.
“What do you mean?”
“My buddy just died. We had his funeral yesterday and I wanted to spread his ashes.”
“Dude, I can totally respect that,” he said, then pointed to the concourse. “But they want to talk to you up there.”
An Avs staffer and a police officer glared from above.
“Am I getting booted out?”
“You’re getting booted out.”
“As long as I don’t go to jail, it’s cool by me.”
The Avs representative asked for his name and address. When he explained what he had put onto the ice, he swears that the cop standing behind her gave a look and a nod that said he would’ve done the same for one of his pals, too.
“You’ve gotta go,” the rep said. The cop told him if he left quietly, no charges would be filed. Clark obliged. A short while later, he got a letter from the team indicating that he would be banned from purchasing tickets for the remainder of the season.
No regrets. None.
“(It) was probably one of the proudest things I could ever be a part of,” Clark said.
The Avs proceeded to win that night, 5-4, in overtime. They’d take the next eight at home and wouldn’t lose again at Ball Arena until Feb. 1.
* * *
There are the friends who help you move. And then there are the friends who will get themselves banned from Avalanche home games in your honor.
Ryan and Kyle met in 2009 while working together at King Soopers. Stark was the best man at Clark’s wedding.
The pair loved to tailgate south of Ball Arena in Ryan’s truck, hooking up a Super Nintendo Classic Mini to Ryan’s seat screens before the game so they could get in some Mario Kart and pound some pops before the puck drop.
When Kyle, a Comcast subscriber, lost the Altitude television network in 2019, Clark used to turn on his DirecTV when the Avs came on and FaceTime it for Kyle so they could “watch” together.
“He called me, he said, ‘You piece of (crud), you better FaceTime the game with so I can watch it,” Clark recalled. “I’d call him all the time, ‘The Avs game is about to start.’ And he’d go, ‘(Expletive) you, man.’”
Avs games weren’t just Kyle’s escape. They were his passion. His muse.
“He’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going (to the game), bro, it doesn’t matter,’” Jake Kirschenheuter, another close friend, recalled. “We’ll figure out how to pay the rent later. We’re going to the game.’
“An amazing dude, just the kindest heart. Very selfless. He would always be more concerned if you were having a good time than if he was. The kind of laugh that would make everybody in the room smile.”
The kind of spirit who always had your back.
“I mean, he is on the (Ball Arena) ice,” Kirschenheuter said. “He’s helping the boys out. And getting (the Cup) for us. I’ve had the utmost confidence that this Stanley Cup is coming home. He’s helping the boys so hard right now.”
During Game 1 of the Cup Final, after the Lightning had rallied to tie it up at 3-3 in the second period, Ryan’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Kyle’s mom, Stacey.
Kyle needs to help us out.
That’s funny, he texted back, I was thinking the exact same thing.
Cue Andre Burakovsky’s game-winner, 83 seconds into overtime.
He heard us, Clark texted Stacey, once he’d stopped screaming. He ABSOLUTELY heard us.
If you don’t believe in miracles, believe in angels. Believe in karma, the kind of tailwinds that move mountains, finally kicking ash. And taking names.