Just about everywhere the Iowa Hawkeyes football team goes, it gets some love.
That includes all its road games. At least some Hawkeye fans are there to offer encouragement before, during and after the games.
But Saturday night at a Tampa arena named for a St. Petersburg newspaper, the Hawks and their Outback Bowl foes, the South Carolina Gamecocks, got cold shoulders from National Hockey League fans.
Midway through the second period, the two teams were announced as being present at the Florida Panthers-Tampa Bay Lightning game. The only noticeable cheers from the crowd of 18,226 came from the teams’ own small pockets of players and support staff. Some in the crowd booed. Most just yawned.
Every year, the Outback Bowl has a “team night” at a Lightning game. Every year, a handful of players show up. Linebacker Pat Angerer was one of the few recognizable Hawkeyes.
Iowa got a big block of upper deck seats, views that would be lousy for basketball, but were quite good for hockey. A few of the players seemed captivated by the game, but most were more interested in overpriced food items from concession stands.
Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker stayed for the entire game. Two rows in front of him was a young man who wore a hockey helmet for much of the game. I asked a Hawkeye player if that man was a member of their team. He assured me it wasn’t. It was a relief.
More excitement came in the second period. A woman in the crowd was to win $1 million if a Lightning player scored with exactly 15 minutes left in the second period. Vincent Lecavalier, an NHL All-Star, scored for Tampa Bay seven seconds after the 15-minute mark passed.
The game was pretty darn entertaining. The Lightning won, 6-4. Everyone in the arena seemed quite excited about it, with the exception of the football players in the building.
The Iowa players will, presumably, be more enthused for their trip to Busch Gardens Sunday afternoon. Maybe someone there will cheer them.