The Tampa Bay Lightning are getting rid of a controversial jersey policy meant to quiet fans of the visiting team.
Security at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. threatened to call police if a man and his 11-year-old son did not remove their Florida Panthers apparel supporting the road team during the first-round playoff series between the intrastate rivals, as seen on a now-viral video posted by the parent, Brad Bargman.
The policy dates to 2015, when the Lightning made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals, at the expense of the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. It forbade fans from wearing jerseys of other teams in the premium seats and club lounges of the arena at a time when fans of visiting teams could take over the venue because the Lightning’s fan support was dwindling, according to TampaBay.com.
Fans searching for tickets in those areas of the arena – about 10 percent of capacity – reportedly received notice of the policy before finalizing an online purchase. But Bargman said he paid almost $400 apiece for the tickets on Ticketmaster and called ahead and was told Panthers jerseys were allowed in the seats, not in the clubs.
Security told him a different story, apologized for misinformation and offered an ultimatum: Abide by the rules (the team would provide a replacement shirt) or leave with a refund. The video got enough social media attention that the Lightning revoked the policy.
“After careful consideration the Lightning have elected to relax its visiting team apparel policy in the premium clubs for playoff games at Amalie Arena,” the team said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “The policy was originally instituted in 2015 at the request of our valued ticket holders in those areas, but we realize we have grown as an organization and as a hockey market since that time and it is no longer necessary.”
The Lightning reportedly also had a policy in 2015 that monitored zip codes to block out-of-state fans purchasing tickets through Ticketmaster during the playoffs. The idea was to create a greater home-ice advantage, but that policy was criticized around the league and repealed.
Tampa Bay eliminated Florida in six games during the 2021 series.