What began as a joke born out of boredom has grown into must-watch entertainment that sometimes breaks news and has raised over $40,000 for a local charity.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn has hosted three episodes of his popular "Dock Talk" show on Instagram. He jet skis around the waters of Tampa from his Davis Islands home to the docks of teammates and athletes from other Bay Area teams to interview them, joke around and sometimes deliver scoops like when Killorn dropped that a realtor friend told him a director was looking for a house in Tampa to begin filming season two of Tiger King.
Killorn arrives with gifts. And a list of questions sent in by fans in real time to ask the guest.
When the National Hockey League season paused March 12 and Lightning players, like the rest of the world, went into quarantine, Killorn suddenly found himself with lots of spare time on his hands. He joked about becoming an "influencer" on Instagram. Wondered aloud what it would be like to rip through the waters behind his house on his jet ski while answering questions sent through the Instagram live feature. Brian Breseman, the Lightning's senior director of broadcasting, programming and communications, had been pressing Killorn to record a video and reach out to the fans.
Maybe a video on a jet ski would satisfy?
It would certainly be unique.
Killorn's initial thought standing on his dock one night early into quarantine has sparked a show that's given fans stuck in their houses over the last two months something entertaining to pass the time while adding a charitable component that benefits local students.
Video: Dock Talk Ep.3 | Highlights
"I told (Breseman) I would do something different, something a little bit more interactive and I was on my dock so I figured might as well do a Q & A with the fans on my jet ski," said Killorn, recalling the genesis of "Dock Talk with Killer" on a video call with local media Thursday morning. "I just thought it would be funny. Then I decided to get some other players involved: Stammer, Hedman, McDonagh. If I knew I was going to do more than one episode, I probably would have spread those guys out over the episodes, but I was only planning on doing one at first and then once it got rolling, people really enjoyed it I think because they got to see a different side of players, got interviews out of players that media I know have a really tough time getting interviews out of. Like Vasilevskiy for sure is a tough interview for the media but seems like he kind of opened up to me knowing me a little bit."
Killorn started off interviewing just his teammates, pulling up to the houses of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh in the debut episode. Since then, he's branched out to include athletes from other Tampa Bay teams, hooking up with the Buccaneers' Cameron Brate and the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier in the most recent episode.
After episode two, Killorn unveiled a "Dock Talk with Killer" tie-dye t-shirt would be going on sale to benefit the Hillsborough Education Foundation so children who can't afford meals or don't have the ability to connect to online classes during quarantine can get help. The t-shirt sells for $30 at tampabaysports.com with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Hillsborough Education foundation.
In the four weeks since the t-shirt hit the shelves, over $40,000 has been raised.
"I just went on Spittin' Chicklets [a popular hockey podcast] the other day, so that might get it going a little bit…We're going to see how much we can raise," Killorn said. "And at some point, we're going to stop it, we're going to stop selling the shirts. We want to make these limited so the people that bought them feel somewhat special for buying them I guess. I think we far exceeded our expectations in that we didn't really know how many people were going to buy them but there's been a ton of support so far."
Killorn, who graduated from Harvard in 2012 with a bachelor of arts degree in government and political science before becoming a regular in the NHL, his 585 career games sixth most all-time in Lightning history, said education has always been extremely important to him. His mother Cindy was an educator and stressed the importance of an education from an early age.
"When I heard about (the Hillsborough Education Foundation), it was a no brainer to me," Killorn said about choosing the non-profit to donate the t-shirt sales to. "I think it's really important to give back, especially to kids who don't have the means to keep up with school.
"School for me was so important, and there's a reason why I think I have gotten where I am today, and I think the route I took is a big part of that. I just hope that with this money, a lot of these younger students that don't have Wi-Fi, don't have iPads, can keep up with school and finish the school year the right way."
Before the NHL pause, Killorn was having a career year on the ice, reaching 20 goals for the first time in his career - he had 26 through March 11 - and recording personal highs for points (49), power-play goals (8), power-play points (13), game-winning goals (7) and shooting percentage (20%).
The Lightning were humming along pretty well too, overcoming a sluggish start by going on a 10-game and then a franchise-record 11- game win streak to rank tied for third overall in the NHL standings and second in the Eastern Conference at the pause. Killorn said he's eager to get the season back underway and completed in whatever format the League decides and with whatever changes are necessary (i.e. no fans in stands, stuck in hub cities for multiple weeks, away from family for long stretches) because the Lightning have a legitimate shot to win the Stanley Cup.
"You don't know how many chances you're going to get at winning this thing, especially when you have a team that you think can compete for it, so you're willing to make whatever sacrifices you need to do that," Killorn said.
But does that mean "Dock Talk with Killer" goes away once the NHL season resumes?
"I've been asked that before. I'm not really sure," Killorn answered. "I know that during quarantine, I've had a lot of free time. That's really helped the situation because it kind of started out of boredom. But if fans enjoy it and if people are still getting behind it, if people continue to ask me to do it, I don't see why I wouldn't. I've enjoyed doing it myself. At some point I'm probably going to run out of docks and people that live by docks to interview, but I'm sure we could change the show and develop it in a way that will be great and continue the same way as it's been."
As for now, with the NHL future still uncertain, Killorn is charting out new territory and lining up more guests for future episodes of "Dock Talk with Killer". There's still one white whale, however, one enormous recent addition to the Team Tampa Bay sports scene Killorn is pursuing.
"Tom Brady. Write that in all your articles," Killorn joked.
Killorn hasn't had luck securing the elusive Brady yet.
But not many gave the Buccaneers much of a chance of securing Brady either, and, well, we know how that turned out.