In 1992, the newly-created Tampa Bay Lightning selected Brian Bradley of the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 36th pick in the NHL Expansion Draft.
At the time, Bradley looked at the selection as a chance to resurrect his career, which had stagnated somewhat in Toronto.
Little did Bradley know, he would become a pillar of the Lightning organization and the Tampa Bay community following six standout seasons in which he would become the Bolts' first bonafide star in franchise history. Bradley tallied career highs for goals (42) and points (86) in his inaugural season in Tampa Bay. He was the Bolts' first All-Star Game representative, earning selection to two-straight ASGs in 1993 and 1994. He scored the first-ever goal at the Ice Palace, now AMALIE Arena, when it opened for the 1996-97 season.
Tonight, the sharpshooting centerman can add one more distinction to his resume: Bradley will be inducted into the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame, one of four members of the Hall's 34th class.
"It's exciting," Bradley said. "I'm looking forward to the ceremony, although I'm a little nervous about the speech. I love to talk and I can talk about the team and my memories from playing for hours, but when it gets personal and you start to talk about family and all the people who have helped you achieve your goals, it gets a bit more emotional. I'm excited about it. Hopefully I can take it all in while I'm there."
Bradley had a breakout season in his fourth season in the NHL (1988-89) with the Vancouver Canucks, recording 18 goals and 45 points, and built on those totals the following year in Vancouver with 19 goals and 48 points.
But he was traded to Toronto midway through the 1990-91 season and wasn't able to replicate the numbers he put up in Vancouver.
A fresh start in Tampa was just the jolt his career needed.
"I was excited to have another opportunity," Bradley said on what he remembers thinking when learning he was headed to Tampa Bay. "Things didn't work out in Toronto like I hoped. I was very fortunate and grateful the Lightning gave me a chance. I knew I would have a good opportunity to come down here and play and get ice time."
Bradley would go on to skate in 328 games over six seasons for the Lightning, scoring 111 goals and assisting on 189 more for 300 points with the Bolts. Bradley continues to rank sixth in franchise history for scoring and power-play assists (82) and seventh for goals, assists, power-play goals (37) and power-play points (119).
During the 1995-96 season, Bradley tallied a career high for assists (56) and helped lead the Lightning to the franchise's first playoff appearance after a fifth place finish in the Atlantic Division during the regular season.
"He was the first Lightning star in my memory," said former president of the Sports Club of Tampa Bay and chairman of the Hall of Fame banquet Mark Donohue. "My son and all his buddies all wanted to be Brian Bradley when they were getting their equipment to play hockey."
Bradley will be the third member of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization to be inducted into the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame, joining franchise founder Phil Esposito and Dave Andreychuk, captain of the 2004 Stanley Cup team. Bradley, who represented Canada at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, is also a member of the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in his hometown of Kitchener, Ontario.
"Brian's career clearly, in terms of our qualifications, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," Donohue said. "The good will because of his great play still resonates with people. And, he's a top-notch individual."
Tonight's sold out ceremony at the TPepin's Hospitality Centre will also see Jack Harris, Lelo Prado and Emeterio "Pop" Cuesta inducted. Including Bradley and the current class, the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame has enshrined 84 local sports dignitaries since 1983.
The Sports Club will also honor, for the first time, the top male and female athlete of the year from both the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida at tonight's event. Proceeds from the banquet, which Donahue said typically tops out around $10,000, benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.