Squirt- and peewee-level players competing at the Mini One-on-One All-Star Finals at the Tampa Bay Lightning's Ice Sports Forum training facility in East Tampa got an All-Star surprise during a break in the action.
Lightning All-Star players Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy popped in to hand out some goodies to the competitors while also sticking around for an impromptu autograph and selfie session.
The youth players were selected by their respective NHL team by participating in local Mini One-on-One tournaments earlier this season. Skaters that won the tournament hosted by their local NHL team were then selected to represent their Club at the Mini One-on-One Finals during NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa.
"Yeah, this is pretty special to see all the boys, the players, the goalies that actually qualified to be here in kind of an All-Star event of their own, really all over the United States, is pretty amazing," Stamkos said. "You can see they're all representing the cities that they're in with their NHL jerseys."
The Lightning All-Star trio stopped in to congratulate the players on their success and offer some inspirational words of encouragement.
"They were pretty excited to see us today," Stamkos said. "…Being able to come here and give them a little gift bag and some signatures and to see them and some autographs and pictures, it was pretty cool. This is really what the All-Star Game is all about is all the kids and seeing their heroes and getting inspired and just growing the great game. It's been great so far."
In addition to participating in the Mini One-on-One tourney, the youth players were awarded tickets to the NHL All-Star Skills Competition Saturday as well as the NHL All-Star Game Sunday at AMALIE Arena.