For the third time in 10 months, a Tampa Bay team reveled in a boat parade to celebrate its victory in the quest for a championship trophy.
And also for the third time, that trophy was not exactly treated with the utmost delicacy.
On Monday, the Stanley Cup had by far the roughest go of it. At some point during the Tampa Bay Lightning's beer-soaked celebration of its triumph last week over the Montreal Canadiens, the cherished trophy received a large dent.
An image that went viral showed Lightning forward Pat Maroon holding a damaged Cup.
It wasn't initially clear what happened to the Stanley Cup. It reportedly appeared intact during the latter stages of the celebration, after Lightning players and staff had left the water and headed to a park for a planned rally that was cut short because of weather befitting the team's name.
The Cup will be sent to Montreal for repairs - leading to inevitable jokes about how that is as close as fans there will come to it - and the Lightning will get it back in approximately a week, according to reports, to resume the team's celebration. Per NHL tradition, championship squads get 100 days with the Cup, allowing each significant contributor to spend a day with the trophy.
The Stanley Cup, or at least the people running its official Twitter account, knew that danger could be in the air come Monday.
"FYI I'm too heavy to throw," the account tweeted last week at Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
That was a reference to the Bucs' boat parade in February, after they toppled the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. At one point during that waterborne bacchanal, Brady tossed the Lombardi Trophy over a stretch of Hillsborough River to teammate Cameron Brate, who was on another boat. Naturally, Brady completed the pass, but likely not without some agita on the part of team and NFL officials.
In October, when the Lightning celebrated its pandemic-delayed 2020 NHL title, players let some fans drink from the Cup despite the dangers of the still-raging coronavirus. Efforts to encourage social distancing during that event, including staging much of it on water, did not stop throngs from crowding along the riverbanks to see the parade.
Pandemic-related restrictions had been long since relaxed in Florida by Monday, but the tradition of holding boat parades for championship teams seems to have firmly taken hold. And as with the two previous celebrations, this one could have easily been called a booze cruise.
Players guzzled beer and sprayed champagne, except when they were guzzling champagne and spraying beer. Lightning star Nikita Kucherov saw fit to end a local TV interview by pouring beer on a reporter's head, which in fairness is probably behavior that should be expected from a shirtless man on a boat.
"All the people right here, unreal. Love them all," Kucherov said of the fans lined up along the river. "Let's party hard. Our time baby, back to back!"
In other words, the 28-year-old former Hart Trophy winner was picking up more or less right where he left off immediately after the Tampa Bay dispatched Montreal for a second straight title. While going shirtless then while swilling beer at the post-game interview podium, Kucherov merrily mocked Canadiens fans and threw shade at opposing players who'd had the effrontery to win individual awards he thought should have gone to his teammates.
So when the Russian forward clambered aboard a Sea-Doo on Monday with the Lightning's Alex Killorn - and with the Stanley Cup - the minders of the trophy might have feared the worst.
However, the Cup was returned safely to shore, at which point there could have been reason to expect smooth sailing, but no such puck luck. At least the NHL's iconic chalice did not wind up at the bottom of the river.
And if the rest of the league is offended at how the beloved trophy was treated by Lightning players, here's an idea: figure out how to leave them high and dry in their quest for a three-peat.