The baseball season is winding down to the post season. The NFL season gets underway this coming week. The USL is headed towards their post season. Then there is the NHL season that gets underway in one month and all with one thing in common. Every pro team in Tampa Bay is involved to make this 2022-23 season another big national plus for Champa Bay.
Let’s begin with what is currently ongoing, the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite being plagued by injuries this team continues to find ways to win and take advantage of other team’s failures, like the Yankees. Just 2 months ago they were 15.5 games out for first place and scrambling to get into the wild card race for the post season. Today they are just 4.5 games out of first place and a solid chance of winning the AL East, let alone a wild card for the post season. They are the “little engine that could” story in MLB and everyone is taking notice. Could this be the year the Rays finally get that elusive first World Series title and have a boat parade of their own. There are still big games to play, but I would not bet against the Tampa Bay Rays at this point.
Now about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and what we can look for in this 2022 season and march to the Super Bowl. To begin withy the G.O.A.T. is back to lead this team onward and upward. Gizelle may not be happy about it, but Tom is doing what Tom wants to do. He will have a challenge this year with the changes that have been made. Through trades, injuries and new faces the Bucs are going to look somewhat different this year, but they still have a decent core to work with. The big question is WR Chris Godwin and when he will be ready to go. Right now, it is tentative for the opener against Dallas, so we will wait and see. Fournette looks like he is ready to have a big year, but the concern has to be the “O” line with all the injuries, shifting of positions, etc. and how that will affect Brady. Some of the “experts” don’t believe the Bucs can make it all the way to the Super Bowl this year. For me, with Brady, some good luck and few injuries during the season I can see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going 13-4 and headed to another Super Bowl. Time will tell.
In another month the focus will also be on the Tampa Bay Lightning and how they will perform this season. This past season they came close, but no cigar. That is now in the rearview mirror and time to look ahead. Number one and most important is that the Lightning will have a healthy Brayden Point back and that is a key element to the success of this team. No worries in goal as we have the best of the best. Because of cap figures and other reasons the Lightning had to make a few moves, one being unloading Ondrej Palat who has been a bellweather for the Lightning. He will be missed for sure, but the depth the Lightning have is incredible. They also lost Ryan McDonagh, but here again it was a move that was needed to clear up some cap room and open space for some new blood. Stamkos, Kucherov, Cirelli (who will miss the beginning of the season), Paul, Colton, Hedman, new Bolt Brandon Hagel, etc. will once again be key players for John Cooper’s squad. There will be some other new faces, some new looks on the ice and a huge determination to once again bring that cup back to Tampa Bay. I am looking forward to what this 2022-23 season will bring and fully expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to be in it to win it all once again.
Finally, we have to recognize the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they carry on the green and gold tradition of winning. Last year they took away the division crown in the USL. This year they want nothing less than the championship of the USL. So far, they lead their division with a 16-6-5 record and are on their way to another post season in the USL. They are a scoring machine, fast, solid defensively and loaded with drive and great talent. While they may not be upper echelon like the Rays, Bucs and Lightning, they are a solid pro team that belongs to Tampa Bay and has performed exceptionally well on the soccer field. Can this be the year for them to win it all? While I am, admittedly, not up on everything soccer wise, just from the game clips I have seen and how they play the game, I can see the Tampa Bay Rowdies coming away with the USL championship this year.
So, there you have it, my thoughts and impressions of what Champa Bay is all about and how it might all shake out. So how many boat parades will there be on the Hillsborough River? One, two, three or four? We will just have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure this will forever be Champa Bay the best all around sports area in the entire country. It doesn’t end there as we didn’t even mention our new indoor pro soccer team, the Strikers or our pro women’s football team the Inferno. The hits just keep coming!
Art Koch, National Features and DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN