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Campers Take Break to Help Out In Tampa Bay

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Following a third consecutive day of on-ice skating sessions and off-ice workouts, 32 Tampa Bay Lightning prospects attending the team’s 2010 Development Camp continued their training Monday afternoon, but in a much different setting than what typically doubles as a second home for young hockey players.

In conjunction with the Lightning Foundation, as a testament to the organization’s commitment to youth development and community involvement, the Lightning prospects removed their hockey gloves to lend some helping hands to two local charitable organizations in the Tampa Bay community.

A handful of Bolts hopefuls, including former first-round draft picks Brett Connolly and Carter Ashton, along with Dana Tyrell, Dustin Tokarski and James Wright visited the St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, while their remaining fellow teammates ventured over to the Central City YMCA to perform a variety of activities with youths and teenagers attending summer camp.

“Today was all about us giving back to the community,” Lightning Community Relations Manager Kelvin Woodson said. “It’s very big for us to have a presence in youth sports and we wanted to show the kids that we’re as much a part of the community as their teachers, their doctors and others who they look up to. We’d like them to look up to our players much in the same way.”

Upon arrival at the YMCA, the remaining 20 prospects split into four groups before breaking into their specific sections of the gym to participate in different activities. James Mullin, Richard Panik and Mitch Fadden tested their skills on the gymnasium floor in the street hockey rink in what appeared to be a continuation of the on-ice drills the players had performed during the morning session of camp at the St. Pete Times Forum. Another set of players including Radko Gudas and Luke Witkowski got a head start on Lightning Strength and Conditioning Coach Chuck Lobe’s workout program, as they assisted gym members in lifting weights on the main floor. The two remaining groups each interacted with kids in a less physical manner, sitting down with them to share stories about hockey, as well as answer questions about each player’s unique background.

Defensive prospect Ty Wishart proved to be the life of the party, making rounds from station to station, while doubling as a celebrity after being mistaken by one of the campers as a male figure skater.

“I’ve become famous here at the YMCA,” said Wishart, who is attending his third development camp with the Lightning. “I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been here six years in a row!”

Mitch Fadden and Kevin Quick put on a clinic within the indoor street hockey rink, teaching kids how to properly hold the stick, pass the puck and shoot on net. Fadden, a forward, said he would not consider switching positions after trying his hand at goaltender, as he admitted “a lot of pucks went by.”

“I made one glove save there that was just spectacular,” Fadden said jokingly. “No, honestly though, I was terrible.”

Although Fadden couldn’t take the credit himself for a stellar performance, he did not hesitate to deflect praise to those who earned it.

“Coming out here means everything to these kids,” he said. “Our job was to come here today and make sure they had fun and also show them a good time. We taught them a lot about hockey and by the time we had to leave, the kids were doing a great job. I was really proud of them.”

Not only did the prospects teach the YMCA campers a thing or two about the sport, but also about each other. Witkowski, Gudas and goaltending prospect Jaroslav Janus held a roundtable discussion that involved telling kids about how they got started in hockey, giving insight into their home countries and cultural backgrounds, and also revealing who their hockey idols were growing up. Among the list of NHL icons were Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure, Niklas Lidstrom, Scott Stevens, Eric Lindros and Brian Campbell.

The sentiments of goodwill were two-fold, as the Lightning prospects received a rewarding experience, while the YMCA showed their appreciation and gratitude for the team’s commitment to civic involvement.

“There was a great level of excitement when the Lightning approached us about today’s opportunity,” YMCA Group Vice President Michael Brown said. “Their values of social responsibility and youth development align with ours and what our focus is here at the YMCA. I’ve seen a lot of smiles on the kids’ faces and that reflects the most important aspect of events like today; the greatest benefit goes directly to the community.”

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