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Tampa Bay Lightning Offer Olive Branch To Florida Panthers?

Ever since both teams burst into the NHL in 1992-1993, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have been regional rivals. They both compete in the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division, and both teams have had spotted histories of success. I don't claim to know the whole history or depth of the feud, but I think it's safe to say that they don't get along.

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So when the following press release dropped into my inbox yesterday, I was stunned.

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In an effort coordinated by the Tampa Bay Lightning through their C.H.A.R.G.E program, staff members from both the Lightning and Jabil Circuit will descend on Big Cat Rescue in Tampa on Wednesday, December 14. [...]

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"We are thrilled to have two work groups from the Lighting donate their time (and their strong backs!) to helping make the ten acres we purchased last December usable," Big Cat Rescue Advisory Board Chairman Howard Baskin said. "This volunteer labor is a great cost savings for the sanctuary and we appreciate it very much!" [...]

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Big Cat Rescue is the largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned big cats. It is home to more than 100 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species, most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts.

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Are the Lightning trying to give the Panthers a covert stick tap for their blazing hot start to the season? Are they trying to bring about some peace between the two franchises? Let the conspiracy theories fly!

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If so, they'd better keep their mascot ThunderBug away from the Big Cat Rescue. From his bio at NHL.com, one of his favorite hobbies is, "...wrestling Florida Panthers." Somehow I don't think that'd go over well with the rescue team.

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Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.