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Lightning and fans victorious Saturday in cancer battle

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Following Saturday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Tampa Bay Lightning had reason to celebrate.

After all, following 60 minutes of play, the Bolts really had earned two victories.

Tampa Bay defeated Winnipeg 1-0 in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 19,204, who also rallied behind the team to support the fight against cancer as the Lightning, along with the NHL and NHLPA, held Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

“What an amazing night,” community leader Steve Yerrid said. “To see all the individuals in attendance light up for one night and support the fight against cancer is truly special.”

In a joint effort with The Yerrid Foundation, Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum employees wore lavender and yellow, which symbolize support of the cause. Fans were also encouraged to do the same. The team’s participation in honoring the importance of cancer research and raising awareness about the disease fulfilled a small portion of the NHL’s league-wide initiative, which encourages the entire hockey community, including all 30 NHL clubs, players, management and fans to join the fight in support of others. Nonetheless, its significance outweighed its size several times over, as it proved to be a huge success.

“We were so very pleased to be able to pass along funds from the NHL and our own initiatives,” Kasey Smith, Executive Director of the Lightning Foundation, said. “Just as important, we believe we introduced new resources in the fight against cancer, and as always, Lightning fans responded.”

To kick off the evening, Lightning Owner and Chairman Jeff Vinik accompanied Yerrid to center ice for a ceremonial opening puck drop as well as a moment of silence which was held in honor of those who have lost their battle with the disease. Included in the recognition was a special message from the team to assitant coach Wayne Fleming, who is currently away from the team as he recovers from a brain tumor. More than 40 special guests also received the chance to sit on the bench and in the penalty box for the pregame skate, enjoy meet-and-greets with Lightning players, and visit the radio and television broadcast booths.

Three individuals were also designated as “Yerrid’s Heroes” for the night.  The designations of Yerrid’s Heroes each year go to local champions in the cancer community, who were recognized in-game on LightningVision and wore a “Yerrid’s Heroes” jersey for the night.

Video clips featuring messages of encouragement from Lightning players appeared on Lightning Vision inside the lower bowl during the game, and a public service announcement was also on display encouraging those in attendance to support the cause and to join in the fight against cancer.

“Together with the Lightning, we have established one of the key note annual events for the cancer community in the Bay Area,” Yerrid added. “Everyone involved in this event is united in the fight against a brutal disease that touches us all and does not discriminate. 

"In hosting this event, as we do every year, we hope to provide awareness to the battle that so many in our community are involved in and give them a break, if only for a night. I would like to again thank Jeff Vinik, Tod Leiweke and the rest of the Lightning for their dedication to this event that will mean so much to these truly special people.”

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