What a year for sports in 2020! Who would have thought that as much pain that 2020 would dish out, that the sports teams of Tampa would bring a smile to our souls?
It started in March when Tom Brady announced that he would be bringing his talents to Tampa after 20 seasons in New England.
In late September, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars four games to two to win the second Stanley Cup in Franchise history.
Three weeks later, the Tampa Bay Rays would play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series only to come up short in six games.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies were champions of the USL.
In late December, one day after Christmas, the Buccaneers gave football fans a late Christmas gift as the Bucs clinched their first playoff berth in 13 years.
Here the Tampa Bay Pro Sports top stories for 2020.
5. The Buccaneers announced the signing of Tom Brady to a two-year contract.
The ink was not even dry on the contract, and NFL pundits were already putting the Bucs in Super Bowl 55. No one knew the impact that Brady would have on the Buccaneers. Brady would have to learn a new offensive system. How would Brady perform without Bill Belichick? There were a lot of questions.
With one game to go in the regular season a lot of those questions have been answered. Brady has led the Bucs to their first playoff appearance in 13 years. He broke the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 36 with one game to go in the regular season.
When the sports leagues announced in March that sporting events would be postponed and canceled till further notice, that was a dagger to the heart of Tampa sports fans.
The Lightning were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Rays were in the middle of spring training and projected by many to make the World Series and even win the World Series.
The Buccaneers had sold out Raymond James Stadium for the first time in years, and no one knew if there would even be football or when sports would start up.
It would be late July and early August before MLB and the NHL seasons would resume. It would be September before Buccaneer fans would get their first look at Tom Brady in a Buccaneer uniform.
3. The Buccaneers make the playoffs.
It took 13 years and Tom Brady coming to Tampa, but the playoff drought is over. The Buccaneers officially punched their ticket to the playoffs beating the Detroit Lions 47-7. The Buccaneers can finish the season with an 11-5 record which would be the best record for the Bucs since 2005.
After a 60 game regular season in which the Rays went 40-20, the Rays surprised everyone outside of Tampa by making it to the World Series.
The Rays swept the Toronto Blue Jays in the wild card round and would earn a date with the New York Yankees.
It was laughable to read the rest of the country’s reaction on Twitter and various blogs about the Rays. There was shock and surprise as the Rays took out the New York Yankees three games to two.
The Rays would then get revenge on the Houston Astros, taking out the defending American League champs four games to three to advance to their second World Series in franchise history.
The Rays met the best team in baseball the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the fall classic, and the Dodgers beat the Rays four games to two to win their first World Series Championship since 1988.
1.The Lightning win the Stanley Cup.
When hockey shut down in March due to COVID, there were no guarantees that the season would continue or that there would be any playoffs.
The Lightning would have to win the cup without their captain Steven Stamkos, who would play just 2:47 of game four in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup playoff run.
The Lightning took out the Columbus Blue Jackets four games to one in the first round. The Lightning would then defeat the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders in subsequent rounds to move on to the Stanley Cup final and play the surprising Dallas Stars.
The Lightning were playing their best hockey of the season by the time the finals came around. The Stars were the surprise team to come out of the Western Conference and played their best game in game one of the series beating the Lightning 4-1.
The Lightning would win four of the next five in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Tampa, beating the Dallas Stars four games to two.
The Tampa Bay Pro Sports Plays of the year in Tampa.
3. Kevin Cash Pulls Blake Snell in game six of the World Series.
The Rays were up on the Dodgers 1-0 in game six of the World Series, and Blake Snell was cruising. Snell had struck out nine Dodgers in five and a third innings and had thrown 73 pitches.
The top of the Dodgers order was coming up and Kevin Cash had seen enough. He removed Snell from the game, turned it over to the bullpen, and before you could blink your eyes, the Dodgers and taken a 2-1 lead.
The Dodgers would add one more run and close out the Rays 3-1 to win the series four games to two.
2. Brett Phillips singles home two runs as the Rays beat the Dodgers.
Game four of the fall classic was one of the more entertaining games you could ever see. The Rays and Dodgers battled hard for eight innings, and the Dodgers had a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Brett Phillips singled to center down 1-2 in the count, scoring Keirmaier to tie the game with two outs. Taylor misplayed the ball in center field, and that allowed Arozarena to score the winning run as the Rays rallied to win the game 8-7 and tie the series up at 2-2.
1. Steven Stamkos’s goal in the Stanley Cup finals.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had not played in a game since early March, yet he was on the ice in game five of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Stamkos was on the ice for 2:47 in game five, and that would be his only appearance in the finals. Stamkos would score a goal in his only shot of the game to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead.
The Stamkos goal earned the Sports Illustrated Play of the Year.
Happy New Year and let’s all raise our glasses to a better year in 2021.