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Lightning offer ‘poignant’ moments in Quest for the Stanley Cup finale

Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Times
The "Quest for the Cup" wrapped up with the Lightning winning once again, but it was the off-ice moments that made the seven-part series really resonate. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

David Check and his crew knew exactly how they wanted to start the sixth season of Quest for the Stanley Cup.

With some availability in Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s schedule, the film crew captured him sitting out on his Anna Maria Island pool patio talking about last year’s Cup run in the Canadian bubbles.

“The big thing for me is, you can’t be full,” Cooper said in between puffs of his cigar. “If you win one Cup, are you full? Or are you still hungry?”

The season came full circle while filming the final scene of the series that streams on ESPN+. The crew was back at Cooper’s pool patio, this time with the Cup sitting on a side table.

“This team was so hungry to win another one, so passionate, they weren’t going to be denied, and it was just so fun to be a part of,” Cooper said. “I guess it’s time to go for three.”

It was these kinds of moments Check, co-executive producer for the show, and crew captured in the seven-episode series, which began shooting in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lightning were heavily featured as defending champions. And it was key to make the on- and off-ice moments come across as authentic as possible, something Check said the Lightning had no issue doing.

“I think every team has a different personality, and Tampa happens to have a group of individuals where their personalities are off the charts,” Check said. “I mean, we can name four or five people that are just (great) personalities on that team.”

Check’s first year on the show was memorable in more ways than one. He has worked on shows like ESPN’s 30 for 30 and movies like the Official 2014 World Series Film and David Ortiz: In the Moment. But the access he and others had with the coaches, officials and players made a huge impact.

“As far as professional sports go, that’s not a level playing field,” he said. “I mean, the NHL is way up there when it comes to the level of access … I don’t know if you can do Quest without that level of access.”

Check enjoyed getting to see how the Lightning operated daily, especially when it came to moments like Blake Coleman showing off his newborn daughter, Carson, ahead of Game 2 against the Islanders in the semifinals.

Check also fondly recalled Ryan McDonagh taking the crew inside of DI Coffee Bar on David Islands so he could get his caffeine fix ahead of Game 7 against New York. And when Pat Maroon talked about how much it would mean to win a third straight Cup.

Getting to film a celebration at a team’s home rink for the first time in the series’ history meant a lot to the crew as well.

“The level of excitement among our crew, and not just in the field, but back in the edit, because you can really capture that emotion of the home crowd just so full throttle in their support for the team, it was an absolute thrill for them to be a part of it,” he said.

And the team’s commitment to and involvement in Tampa Bay couldn’t have been clearer than in some of the “poignant” moments filmed for the season finale.

McDonagh and Maroon showed off the Cup at DI Coffee Bar after surprising a random family. When they knocked on the door, the mother told the pair of players she had lost her son — a big Lightning fan — last year and said this run was extra special to her because of the team’s “angel.”

“It really illustrated how much the Bolts winning meant to that community,” Check said. “(This team’s) so woven into the community and that really struck me.”

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.

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