With the end of summer approaching and the chill of the rink just around the corner, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big summer splash as they unveiled their new jersey at IceFest 2007 at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday afternoon. As part of the festivities, a handful of Lightning players were present for the unveiling in a day filled with autograph and question-and-answer sessions and games on the plaza.
Lightning players Martin St. Louis
, Chris Gratton, Filip Kuba and Johan Holmqvist were joined by local media celebrities to unveil the first jersey re-design since the team’s inception 15 years ago. Players walked down a red carpet through thousands of fans on the Chrysler-Jeep Plaza before a replica of the new jersey was unfurled off the adjacent City of Tampa parking garage.
“The new jerseys look sharp, they have clean lines and I really think the fans around going to like it,” Gratton said.
“I like it, I like the new logo,” Kuba added. “I think they did a good job to keep it in the same order as the old logo; just changed it around a little bit. It’s nice, and it’s kind of refreshing.”
After the players donned the new jerseys for the first time, fans were invited to the main concourse for a chance to meet their favorite players and get autographs. Current players such as Goaltender Marc Denis as well as alumni Dave Andreychuk and John Tucker also took part in signing autographs for the hundreds of fans that lined up throughout the day.
As autograph sessions took place during the day, Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster and Head Coach John Tortorella conducted one of two question-and-answer sessions for season ticket holders.
In the span of an hour Feaster and Tortorella candidly answered questions related to a broad variety of topics ranging from officiating to their opinions of the new jersey to the influence of the incoming ownership group. With a handful of new players in the lineup, including Gratton’s return to Tampa Bay and the addition of forwards such as Jan Hlavac and Michel Ouellet, the duo also touched on the direction they would like to see the team move this year.
“Jay and I for the past three years have talked about trying to create and get our team to be more of a grinding type team, and a team that really goes to the net because we feel we have some of the most talented players on the outside,” said Tortorella when asked about this year’s game plan.
Assistant General Manager Claude Loiselle and new Assistant Coach Mike Sullivan also participated in their own question-and-answer session to talk about the coming season and what they expect to see at both the NHL and minor league levels of the Lightning organization.
In addition to the opportunities to interact with players and management fans were encouraged to participate in a number of games on the plaza, including a 50-foot snow slide. Fans in attendance had the chance to pre-order new jerseys and pick up merchandise with new re-vamped logo.
With training camp set to open on September 13, IceFest gave fans and players a chance to celebrate the season and take part in the unveiling of the new jerseys and logos. As the team gears up for their 15th season in the National Hockey League, they’ll burst onto the ice with a new image, new ownership and refreshed enthusiasm.