Tampa Bay Lightning on pace for rare feat in major North American sports

It’s only fitting that in southwest Florida on Saturday night there was wind, heavy rain, thunder and lots of lightning. This part of the country isn’t necessarily known for producing great ice hockey talent, but Tampa is surely producing some great ice hockey champions of late.

Fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning flocked to Amalie Arena in shorts and hockey sweaters to watch their hometown Lightning defeat the New York Rangers, 2-1, to close out Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Tampa Bay Lightning move on to the Stanley Cup Finals for a third-consecutive season, this time to face the Colorado Avalanche, who swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final.

Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with teammates Jan Rutta #44 and Ondrej Palat #18 after scoring a goal on Igor Shesterkin (not pictured) of the New York Rangers during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on June 11, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Lightning are two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, defeating the Dallas Stars in six games during the 2020 COVID-delayed season, and then the Lightning put away the Montreal Canadiens in five games in 2021.

Should the Lightning win hockey’s title again, they will be the first NHL team to raise the Stanley Cup in three-straight seasons since the New York Islanders did it four years in a row from 1980-83. Only five teams have ever won the Stanley Cup three or more consecutive seasons in the last 100 years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs did it in the 1947-49 seasons, followed by the Montreal Canadiens (1956-60), Toronto (1962-64), Montreal (1976-79) and the aforementioned New York Islanders.

The Lightning would be the first team this century to raise the Cup three-consecutive years should they win. But making a three-peat is rarity within itself for major sports in North America. Just ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who’s won seven Super Bowl Rings, but never three in a row.

No NFL team has won three-straight Super Bowls, but eight teams have won it back-to-back, the last being the Brady-led New England Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

The last time a Major League Baseball team had a three-peat was the New York Yankees, starting in 1998 and ending in 2000. The last three-peat before them was the Oakland A’s nearly 30 years earlier from 1972-74. Before then? The Yankees in the 1950s.

The NBA has the most recent three-peat, which was the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000, 2001 and 2002 Finals. Before that was a pair of three-peats by Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls from 1991-93 and 1996-98. Before that was a lengthy run by the Boston Celtics in the 1960s.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are on pace to defy history should they win their next series, but they’ll have to do it against the Avalanche, who have won two Stanley Cups in only two tries.

The best-of-7 Stanley Cup series begins Wednesday night in Colorado, with the puck dropping at 8 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on ABC or ESPN Plus. Game 2 will be Saturday in Denver before it shifts back to Tampa for Game 3 the following Monday.

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