My Frozen Weekend in Tampa, Florida

The NCAA Frozen Four 2023 – Tampa, Fl

On April 6, 2023, the Michigan Wolverines would play in their NCAA leading 27th Frozen Four in Tampa. Hopes were high as Michigan fielded an NHL laden roster, with the Hobey Baker Award winner and an offense that lead the NCAA in scoring. Michigan fans, myself included, were eager to show our support and felt confident that we would get a rematch of the Big Ten Championship with Minnesota (Michigan won 4-3).

frozen four

The 2023 Frozen Four was held in Tampa, Florida. If you have not visited the Tampa-St. Pete area, you need to add it to your list. It’s not only  a great place for professional and college sports, but there is plenty to do to keep the non-sports fan more than happy.

We rented a 5-bedroom house in the upscale Bayshore neighborhood. The house was amazing with a pool that served as  Friday gathering spot for former Michigan athletes and coaches. The Bayshore area is loaded with updated homes and awesome walkable shops.  The Bayshore area is a mere 5 minute drive to Allian Arena, the site for the 2023 Frozen Four. (It’s no more than 15 to 20 minutes to the Raymond James stadium and 25 minutes to the Trop).

My house mates included, George Lilja, an All-American and an 8 year veteran of the NFL, including the heart breaking Brown’s teams of the 80’s….The Drive and The Fumble in back to back years.  And John Arbeznik, a 2-time Captain and 2-time All-Big Ten lineman. And Robert Lence, the lead animator on such films as Shrek, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King.

As you know by now, the game was a major disappointment as Michigan lost to ultimate champion Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac started faster and more determined than Michigan. It was pretty clear early on that Quinnipiac was a talented well coached team that was prepared to win. Hats off the Bobcat’s scouting which lead to not one, but 2 goals on shots from BEHIND the net, capitalizing on Wolverine goalie Mike Portillo’s habit of moving too far out in front of the net.

The highlight for Michigan fans was Adam Fantilli’s outstanding puck work and one-on-one goal…and of course Friday’s official announcement that Fantilli won the Hobe Baker Award as collegiate hockey’s outstanding player. 

Adam Fantilli

The Arena itself was more than adequate. It certainly did not have the charm of a an old barn like Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena, but it was an equal to the best of the modern NHL rinks, like the homes of the Sharks, Predators and Panthers. Keynote: lines for drinks move pretty quickly, but drinks other than beer, like Seltzwe, were often out of stock at many stands.

Parking was close (less than 5 minute walk) and the price of $22 (and for charity!!!) was far more reasonable than any other professional venue, regardless of sport. 

On Friday, we hosted a party for our friends, which included a number of former athletes. One was Joe McFarland, one of the all-time collegiate wrestlers and coach of Michigan for 19 wildly successful years. Joe is 63 and looks more like 33. For those who many not remember, Joe was a four-time NCAA All-American and a two-time NCAA finalist at 126 pounds (1984, ’85). He finished fifth (1981) and sixth (1982) in his first two national championship appearances. e was the silver medalist at the 1986 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. McFarland captured the 1987 Tblisi Tournament bronze medal before winning the 1988 World Cup Championship, where he defeated the Soviet Union’s world champion Hazar Isiev in the gold-medal match.

We spent the day grilling, having a few cocktails and listening to stories from people who participated in college and Olympic sports’ biggest stages. One was hearing about one of the most memorably plays in college football: Anthony Carter’s last second catch and run to give Michigan a Home Coming win over Lee Corso’s Indiana Hoosiers. Both Lilja, center, and Arbeznik, left guard, were on the field for the play. It’s rare when the memories of 2 players are the same when recalling something that happened ___ years ago, but they did here. Watch the video as they casually discuss AC coming into the huddle and saying “Just through me the ball”.

On Saturday, Mr. Lence and I went to catch the Rays in action. The Trop was the 22nd professional baseball stadium I have had the pleasure of visiting. The media and everyone I know were unanimous in describing it as a dump. 

The Trop

I consider myself as somewhat of an aficionado of dumps, having grown up attending hundreds of games at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium and Tiger Stadium, while in college, albeit a dump with far more charm the mistake on the lake. The Trop was far from the nicest stadium I have been in, but it was not nearly as bad as I had heard it was. The concourse was bland, but the food and drink stands were plentiful, the lines manageable and staffed by very nice people.  Our walk around the interior concourse gave us the chance to get views from every location in the lower bowl. The views were decent no matter where you were in the were bowl.  The Trop had the same odd color tones and shadows that Montreal’s Olympic Stadium did. Bib and I never made it up to the upper bowl, but the seats in the upper deck looked closer to Miami than the baseball field.

We had the added pleasure of sitting next to Jack Anderson, son of Rays radio announcer and former Indian Brian Anderson. Jack is a standout baseball player at Gilmour Academy outside Cleveland. If he is half the baseball player that he is a fine young man, Jack should have more success than his father. Wish him the best of luck.

After the game, I took Mr. Lence to the Waterfront Museum District in St. Pete . It’s an area loaded with restaurants,  galleries and shops. It’s also the home of the Salvador Dali Museum. It‘s an infinitely walkable area and was busy late into the night. 

If you like to see your teams on the road, Tampa is a great spot to visit. If you end up going to a Buc’s game: make sure to get your alcohol Saturday because the choices are limited, if available at all. We learned this the hard way going empty handed to the stadium on Sunday morning. We had to smooth talk our way into the Bud hospitality tent.

Tampa is definitely a must see visit for sports and non-sports fans.

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