Since you've visited every NHL arena, which one serves the best food in the press box? Who has the stinkiest locker room? (via @Saima_1226)
There are still a few arenas I've yet to hit during my two-plus seasons working as the Lightning's beat writer. I haven't visited any of the Western Canada arenas but will knock off Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in mid-December this season. That will leave Winnipeg and St. Louis as the only two cities I have yet to travel to with the Lightning, and I missed my chance this season to get to St. Louis.
With that said, I'm a big fan of comparing different arena experiences, and your question about the best press box food is right up my wheel house. There are two arenas that stand above and beyond the others. Carolina, surprisingly, has great press box food, and it's for one reason only:
Unlimited Sour Patch Kids.
The coffee is poor, the popcorn is sometimes stale and the rest of the snack menu is lacking. But I can overlook all those shortcomings because, hey, free, unlimited Sour Patch Kids.
But the holder of the best press box food title would undoubtedly have to belong to Boston. Not only does TD Garden have a nice drink selection with all of the assorted fountain drinks as well as a decent cup of joe, but the arena has an unparalleled selection of candy.
You want Hot Tamales? Boston's got 'em.
Can't decide between Reese's Pieces or M&M's? Why not take a little of both?
Swedish Fish in honor of Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman? Don't mind if I do.
To top it off, Boston also brings up mini pastries from the pre-game media meal and keeps them refreshed in the press box throughout the game. So if the unlimited candy supply isn't enough of a sugar rush for you, a mini tiramisu or cheesecake or Boston cream pie is only a few feet away.
As for who has the stinkiest locker room? I can't really say one stands out over the others. They all have a bit of funk to them but nothing out of the ordinary. The time you notice the smell most is when the boot and glove racks are full and turned on high. You can smell that pungent odor from well down the locker room hallways. It's enough to make your eyes water.
How does a West Virginia born and raised person become a Tampa Bay Lightning NHL reporter/writer? (via @BoltsFan92)
I'll admit, West Virginia has very few ice rinks and aside from the northern section of the state, which is close to Pittsburgh and typically very pro-Penguin, hockey doesn't really register on the radar. However, I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Eastern Panhandle about an hour and 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. I was a Caps fan growing up. I remember going to a few games at the old Capital Centre in Landover, which looked like a Pringles potato chip from the air. Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter and Joe Juneau were who I grew up watching.
As far as how did I come to be a hockey writer for the Lightning? I was a big fan of sports (any sport) growing up and knew I wanted to stay in that field for my career. I started in public relations, got my degree in communications from the University of Miami and my first professional job as a media relations assistant for the Frederick Keys, a single-A baseball affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Through that job, I started writing freelance for the local newspaper, the Frederick News-Post, and became pretty decent at writing good copy on deadline. A couple years later, I decided to move to Tampa with a couple of my buddies on a whim, partly because we were sick of those cold, grey, drizzly, miserable winter days up north and partly for better job opportunities. I latched on with the then-St. Petersburg Times first as a correspondent and then a staff writer. I covered pretty much everything with the Times, including a few hockey games.
One random summer day while I was back home camping with my family in Canaan Valley, WVa., I got a call from the Lightning saying they had a beat writer position open and I had been recommended by the Times. A couple interviews later, I got another call saying the job was mine and when could I start. That was before the 2014-15 season. Since I began with the Lightning, I've covered a Stanley Cup Final, two Eastern Conference Finals, seven separate playoff series, two NHL Drafts and a preseason game in Johnstown, Penn., that featured the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, Mr. Peanut and the Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot. And that's just in my first two seasons.
Safe to say, I got pretty lucky.
How much fun was it to watch your Canadian counterparts react to Stamkos re-signing in Tampa? Did you send any smug texts? (via @Saima_1226)
The Stamkos signing happened after the NHL Draft and during a dead period as far as events in the league, so I didn't see any of my Canadian counterparts until a couple of months after the deal went down. By that time, the sting had subsided.
I do have a pretty funny story about the team's first trip to Toronto following the Stamkos deal, however. After a Lightning practice session at the Maple Leafs' training facility, I went to grab lunch with our digital video manager, Gabe Marte. Gabe is responsible for shooting and editing all of the videos you love watching on our website, including this awesome piece by Caley Chelios on the multi-talented family of Brian Boyle .
Anyway, Gabe and I are deep in conversation walking back from our lunch at the Cactus Club Café in downtown Toronto (good steaks by the way, but pricy) when a guy bumped into me with a decent amount of force on the street. He said, "sorry," and kept walking. I didn't think anything of it until I looked around and realized the sidewalk is about 30 feet wide and there was nobody else around us on the street and it would literally be impossible to bump into anyone unless you were doing it on purpose. And it wasn't just a harmless brushing of the shoulders either, dude lowered his left shoulder into my ribs and braced himself for impact (humble brag: it barely knocked me off my stride). Also, and this detail is kind of important, I'm wearing a Lightning zip-up hoodie over my work clothes because, well, Canada.
I look at Gabe. "I think that guy just bumped into me on purpose," I say. We turn to find him. By this time, the fly-by checker has already rounded the corner of York and King and is out of sight. Gabe and I make eye contact, and for a brief moment, I think we both contemplate running after the guy. But I'm not a fighter. I typically avoid conflict, not seek it out. And what am I going to do if I do catch up to the guy? Demand a more sincere apology? Bulldog his head into the ground from behind (in my fantasy, this is what happened)? Make a citizen's arrest? No, none of those options are worth the time, so we continue on our journey back to the hotel, laugh about the incident and chalk it up to a disgruntled Maple Leafs' fan still bitter about Stamkos spurning his hometown.
The hysterical part of the incident (I hesitate to call it an incident because, really, it was nothing) is that even in this random guy's attempt to be tough, he still had to say sorry, reinforcing every stereotype you've ever heard about the impeccable politeness of Canadians.
A penguin walks in your office wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there? (via @F5Penguin)
Hopefully, the penguin is Sidney Crosby and he says, "Bryan, I'm on the Lightning now and I just wanted to introduce myself. Also, this hat is an urban sombrero and it's from the J. Peterman collection. Do you like it?"
What's the best way to fend off the heartburn this team gives me daily? (via @ChristineLRM)
Just pop in a tape (does anybody use a VCR anymore) of the Lightning's dominating 4-0 Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 5 shutout of the New York Islanders and remind yourself that last year's team was wildly inconsistent early and just 11-11-3 through the month of November.
This year's team has a better record of 13-10-1 through November.
But maybe keep that bottle of Tums handy just in case.