Boucher: Lightning Fan Fest Draws Record Crowd

by Alexis Boucher | Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2014

TBLFanFest2014The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the doors of the Amalie Arena early on Saturday morning for their annual Fan Fest. The event has grown steadily in the last several years. Attendance was announced as 8,830 which more than doubles the number of fans who came out to last year’s festival. The schedule for the day was jam packed with interviews, practices, a scrimmage and more. One of the most anticipated moments was the much heralded unveiling of the new third jersey. (Photos/Alexis Boucher)

Things got underway before the doors even opened. A Kids Zone was set up on the plaza featuring a spirited game of street hockey. Kids could get in the game with Lightning TBL2014FanFwstStreetHockeyalumni like Jassen Cullimore, Mathieu Garon and more. Other alums like Chris Dingman, Dave Andreychuk and Stan Neckar milled around to meet with fans. Thunder Alley was packed when the doors opened at 9:30 and eager fans streamed into the building. Some headed over to take advantage of a used equipment sale while others headed into the stands to get a spot for the on ice portion of the day.

Sun Sports Lightning play by play announcer Rick Peckham acted as an emcee between the benches. A small stage and chairs had been set up and GM Steve Yzerman joined Peckham for a short interview. Yzerman largely discussed the new acquisitions over the summer like Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and Brenden Morrow.

The first group of players took the ice shortly after the interview. Jon Cooper and the coaching staff worked with them on a drill that started with a face off and played out like a mini scrimmage without the physicality. When the players were done, team owner Jeff Vinik came to the stage for an interview. The crowd’s response to Mr. Vinik was pretty incredible, with many getting to their feet and applauding.

SStamkosThirdJerseyThe arena lights went down and anticipation began to build as fans would get their first look at the new alternate jersey. AC/DC’s “Back in Black” played over the arena speakers as captain Steven Stamkos took to the ice in the new uniform. A return of the predominantly black sweater is a call back to a color the Lightning wore for most of their history. The diagonal “Bolts” remains on the front of the jersey, but the overall design is relatively simple and striking. It is cool to see a call back to the past uniforms of the Lightning.

Immediately after the reveal, both groups of players came back to the ice for a scrimmage. It was a much less physical contest when compared to the scrimmage that took place at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon last week. No blood was spilled, but it was no less competitive. When that wrapped up, many fans took to the concourses to line up for  player autographs. Big crowds meant big lines to get a chance at meeting the Lightning players spread at tables on the plaza. There were a few exclusive opportunities on the club level for Season Ticket Holders as well. Once great story that came out of the crazy and crowded signing session was of netminder Ben Bishop. Players were scheduled to sign for about 45 minutes. Bishop made sure everyone who was in his line before it was cut off got to come through. He ended up signing for two hours. Good dude, that Bishop.

Fan Fest has come to symbolize the impending start of another season for the Lightning.  Fans and those involved with the oraganization are excited about the possibilities for this team. At this point anything is possible and it was pretty cool to enjoy that optimism.

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Alexis Boucher
About the Author

Managing Editor and Senior Writer Alexis Boucher is a transplant from the Northeast, who worships in the churches of hockey and baseball. She has followed the Lightning since the late 90's. A graduate of the Florida State University Creative Writing program, she has been blogging for over three years. She has a penchant for loud music, enforcers, and good beer.

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