Devil Rays playing in the ALCS on Saturday, the Lightning asked the Hurricanes to move the time of Saturday night's game up to 5 p.m. from 7:30 p.m.
The Hurricanes said no, and it's hard to blame them. With a home game Friday night — the opener against the Florida Panthers — the Canes would be at a huge competitive disadvantage playing earlier.
But there's a subtext here. In the summer of 2006, the Lightning added an ice-level club to their arena and closed off the tunnel that connected the visiting locker room to the visiting bench. It was a double-whammy for visiting teams, not only forcing them to walk about 100 yards to get to the ice while depriving them of in-game access to their dressing room but forcing them to walk through a bar full of possibly inebriated Lightning fans to get to the ice.
Somehow, the NHL decided this was permissible — nominal, in fact. I wouldn't expect any NHL team to do the Lightning any favors, though.
You can still read that story online, but here's the important part — well, all of it really:
The St. Pete Times Forum used to be one of the most hassle-free arenas for a visiting team. A team would enter its bench through a door that led directly into its locker room, a pleasant change from even the newest arenas where a backup goalie must watch from a corner of the rink where his teammates enter and exit, coaches and trainers grasping the boards for life as they shuffle to the bench.
That's all gone this season. The door to the bench has been replaced by seats, and visiting teams now enter from a corner of the rink after a long walk down a hallway -- and not just any hallway. Visiting teams have to walk through a bar, filled with drunken partisans, just to get to the ice.
This may work in Edmonton, where the Oilers walk through a lounge to get to their bench, but making a visiting team do it is a recipe for disaster -- alcohol combined with fan fury.