Colorado Avs Lovers on Twitter Hate on Tampa Bay After Stanley Cup Victory

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog exults while hoisting the Stanley Cup on June 26.
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog exults while hoisting the Stanley Cup on June 26. NHL/Photo by Michael Roberts
The next great National Hockey League rivalry was born last night.

After the Colorado Avalanche's 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 26 clinched a 4-2 Stanley Cup finals victory, Avs lovers exploded with excitement caught on video. But plenty of rooters on Twitter in Denver and beyond also set off different kinds of blasts — F-bombs directed straight at the Bolts, their head coach, Jon Cooper, and their entire fan base.

Why? Two words: whining and complaining.

Tampa Bay came into the playoffs as the two-time NHL champs, but the squad still had plenty to prove. The Lightning's first cup, earned in the NHL bubble created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when no fans were present, was against the Dallas Stars, who overachieved merely to reach the finals. And the next year, the Lightning matched up against the Canadiens, who represented a classic Cinderella story; Montreal was the lowest-seeded playoff participant, with the league's eighteenth-best record out of 31 franchises. But those glass slippers proved fragile, and the Lightning cruised to a 4-1 gentleman's sweep.

As a result, the Avs were far and away the best unit the Lightning had faced in the finals since at least 2015, when Tampa Bay was bested by a great Chicago Blackhawks lineup. Had the Lightning won, they could have claimed to be the best team of their era. A loss, on the other hand, meant they'd wind up being viewed as good but not an all-time great.

The pressure of this scenario came into play after the Avs' pivotal game-four overtime triumph, when a splenetic Cooper suggested afterward that the Lightning had been robbed. The reason: Colorado briefly had an extra man on the ice when Nazem Kadri notched the goal that ended the contest. Hockey commentators from far and wide quickly spoke out against this theory, noting that the same call could be made during every line change, but that didn't stop the Lightning faithful from playing up this narrative — and Cooper's subsequent apology/non-apology for his outburst didn't help the situation.

The same issue cropped up again during the third period of game six, when Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog had to crawl off the ice after taking a shot to the skate, with superstar Nathan MacKinnon giving him an assist, as the players on the Tampa Bay bench bayed for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty that wasn't and shouldn't have been called. Cooper didn't focus on this moment in a post-game interview, but rather than saluting the Avs' accomplishment, he griped about all the injuries his squad had suffered — the implication being that had the Lightning been at full-strength, the cup would have stayed in Florida for another year.

Fans in Colorado noticed and weren't appreciative — and their antipathy could fuel antagonism between the Avalanche and the Lightning for years to come. Count down twenty examples below:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts