The Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks isn’t just about the action on the ice. Here’s a look at some of the happenings off the ice.
Jonny Baker and Cody Neal are co-workers, buddies and hockey fans whose loyalties lie more than skin deep. They also happen to be tattoo artists in Tampa who made their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final in a very permanent way.
Baker, a 32-year-old Chicago transplant, likes the Lightning but is sticking with his Blackhawks. Neal, 26, thinks the Bolts will win. The friendly rivalry took a big step before Game 1 on Wednesday with a bet on which team would win.
Each now wears art that reads: “2015 Stanley Cup Champions,” featuring the logo of their respective favorite team. “He did mine first and I tattooed him afterward,” Baker says.
As the conference finals neared the end last month, Baker and Neal agreed to get the tattoos if their favorite teams advanced to the championship series.
“We work with each other so much that we’re like brothers, so you could say it’s a brotherly competition,” said Baker, who manages Atomic Tattoos, on West Waters Avenue, and hired Neal last year.
Baker admits it might be premature, but both are confident.
“It intensifies the whole series. Fortunately this is something that both do. This is a story that we’ll have, be it five, 10, 15 years down the road. ... Neither of us are going to remove them, that’s the whole point.”
Blue beard extraordinaire
Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison had a head start on his playoff beard – he’s worn whiskers all season — but who knew facial hair would get this much attention?
Garrison’s beard has grown in thickness since the first round of the postseason, and it’s taken on a life of its own.
“I’m getting so many compliments on my beard, and even people who want to touch it,” Garrison wrote in an article for NHL.com. “I’ve walked outside signing autographs for fans and I’ve had teenage guys who want to grab it. That’s, well, interesting.”
Garrison wrote that his beard has never been this long.
“... This is definitely the longest I’ve had it,” he wrote. “Usually in the summer I don’t shave too much. I just let it go, but never has it reached this length.”
Why even play the other games?
Apparently, the Cup is now a best-of-one, if you believe one national sports commentator.
“I’m not gonna stutter, I’m not gonna stammer. This series is over. It’s completely over,” says Tony Kornheiser on his ESPN show “Pardon the Interruption.”
He pins that on how the Lightning lost Game 1, 2-1, after dominating most of two periods, then giving up two quick goals late in the third period.
“It is such a heartbreaking loss,” continues Kornheiser, a radio host in the Washington, D.C., and former Washington Post columnist and “Monday Night Football” analyst.
“... The great fear that Tampa Bay had to have goes something like this: ‘We’ve never been on this stage before. They have, they have won. They’re gonna pull out victories in ways that champions do. We don’t know how to do that yet.”
“PTI” co-host Michael Wilbon, a Chicago guy, wasn’t quite ready to hand over the Cup, but admitted it seemed as if patient Blackhawks said to the Bolts, “we’re done with you now.”
More ticket policy talk
♦ “Teams are putting more stock into the mental game, not just one-on-one sessions or workshops with coaches, but trying to channel group mentality within the stadium as well.” — Olivia Wyatt, psychology major at Tufts University, explaining the Lightning ticket restrictions in an article for the website Premier Sport Psychology
♦ “Well, as you know a few years ago it didn’t matter if this was Chicago or Tampa Bay. We’re lucky we had 3,000 fans. So, it is exciting. It’s a fine compliment to our fans that we would have that many that would go on the road.” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, on Chicago games past and present, to ESPN
♦ “Tampa Bay isn’t even a damn city. It’s like calling them the Delaware River Flyers.” — Travis Hughes, SB Nation writer in Philadelphia (Note to Travis: The team represents the Tampa Bay region. Think New England, Golden State, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.)