After protecting themselves from the coronavirus pandemic inside the NHL’s two Canadian bubbles over the last few months, the league champion Tampa Bay Lightning ignored social distancing guidelines at their celebratory boat parade on Wednesday by allowing fans to drink beer directly from the Stanley Cup.
‘You’ll be seeing a lot more of that as the days and weeks go by,’ one of the Fox Sports announcers said as the network aired footage of forwards Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov pouring beer into the mouths of maskless fans on Wednesday night.
Players were also seen drinking directly from the Cup, which was customary before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans.
A team spokesperson did not immediately respond to the Daily Mail’s request for comment.
Tampa Bay Lightning’ Victor Hedman pours a drink from the Stanley Cup into the mouth of Steven Stamkos during the celebratory championship boating parade on Wednesday
Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning make their way down the Hillsborough River as they are greeted by fans during Wednesday’s boat parade
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Alex Killorn spreads his arms wide at the front of a boat on Wednesday
‘The entire @TBLightning team tested positive for COVID after drinking out of the same cup all day,’ joked one fan on Twitter.
Another Twitter user called the players’ behavior ‘selfish and reckless.’
‘You may have won the cup, but your behavior here takes away all the hard work and good will that the bubble created in protecting the public,’ he wrote.
The boat parade featured Killorn on a jet-ski with Steven Stamkos riding on the back as they held up the Stanley Cup and did laps around the boats in the Hillsborough River.
The parade was followed by a public trophy celebration at the stadium with a capped attendance of 16,000 people.
‘We’re excited to share this with Tampa,’ Killorn said. ‘I know they weren’t here throughout the series and in the bubble, but this is our time to enjoy it with them because (the fans) are a big part of this team.’
Killorn later thanked Governor Ron Desantis for ‘opening the bars just in time for the boys.’
Among the highlights of the celebration was a video package of the Lightning’s playoff run and a congratulatory video message from ESPN broadcaster and Lightning season-ticket holder Dick Vitale.
The players returned to Tampa on Tuesday after being in the NHL’s ‘bubble’ in Toronto and Edmonton for the past 65 days. They were greeted at the airport by their families and held a private on-ice ceremony for friends and family.
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said that the circumstances in which the Lightning won the Stanley Cup make it an even more impressive feat than winning in a normal year.
‘This was not only a hockey Stanley Cup,’ Vinik said. ‘This was a mental Stanley Cup to get through that period of time. Kudos to them and kudos to their families for being so supportive. That’s a long time away from home and I don’t think any of us can appreciate how tough that was.’