The Tampa Bay Lightning will host three World War II veterans, as well as a small group of retired Marines, to perform the ceremonial puck drop and the traditional call of ‘Let’s Play Hockey’ prior to their 7:30 p.m. start tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.
At center ice dropping the puck will be Cpl. Anthony Donofrio, who enlisted in the service in 1943 and served as a member of the 13th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, as well as Cpl. Bill Baker, who was wounded in combat while serving his country as a member of the 28th Marine Regiment, Delta Company, 3rd Battalion. Cpl. John Residence, who also enlisted in 1943 as a member of the 13th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, will be present as well for the ceremony. A group of retired Marines will then lead fans in the traditional call of ‘Let’s Play Hockey’ from section 218 of the club level.
Cpls. Donofrio, Baker and Residence were all serving active duty on the island of Iwo Jima in early 1945 when U.S. troops raised the American flag high above Mt. Suribachi on February 23, officially declaring a strong sense of American patriotism overseas. The men were present on the island until April 1945 and played an integral role in the neutralization efforts stemming from the aftermath of the battle that proved a decisive U.S. victory in the concluding months of the war.