The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Fan Fest 2009, presented by Embassy Suites Downtown, was a great success on two fronts Saturday afternoon. First, Lightning fans got the chance to meet, greet, photograph and watch several of the team’s new players, including Mattias Ohlund
, Matt Walker
, Victor Hedman
and Antero Niittymaki
. They combined with Martin St. Louis
, Steven Stamkos
, Ryan Malone
, Jeff Halpern
, Adam Hall
, Mike Smith
and Andrej Meszaros
to create some unforgettable experiences for fans throughout the day. Highlights included the Metro PCS Phone a Friend location where fans got the chance to surprise their friends and loved ones with a phone call from their favorite players.
Lightning fans also gobbled up used hockey equipment at the team’s “Gearage” sale on the plaza, had the chance to record their own play-by-play in the 620 WDAE You Make the Call booth and season ticket holders were entertained by General Manager Brian Lawton and goaltenders Mike Smith
and Antero Niittymaki
in an exclusive question and answer session. Charity Scrimmage
VIDEO - Corporal Mike Roberts Tribute
But the highlight of the day was the team’s charity game, held in honor of fallen Tampa Police Department Corporal Mike Roberts. The Lightning players took to the ice with alums Dave Andreychuk, Brian Bradley, Chris Dingman, Pat Jablonski and Stan Neckar, along with assistant coach Wes Walz, Lightning locker room staffers and eight of the TPD’s finest men in blue to entertain 9,112 fans in attendance at Fan Fest 2009. The game served as a fundraiser for Roberts’s wife, Cindy, and three-year old son, Adam, who lost his father nearly two weeks ago as he worked to keep the streets of Tampa safe.
Team Navy won the game in a shootout, 6-5, but it wasn’t the final score that mattered to anyone in the building, it was the newfound spirit and comraderie developed between the Lightning players and the officers that played on Cpl. Roberts’ recreational hockey team. Born in the bay area, but raised in Newfoundland, Roberts became a goaltender for the department’s hockey team and followed the Lightning closely in addition to earning himself a reputation as one of the top officers in the police department.
“It’s incredible, this would mean the world to him," Detective Mike Hutner told the Tampa Tribune after playing in the game. “It’s definitely sad and we will miss him, but its more about what this team did for his family.”
All players in the game wore number 12 in honor of Roberts along with a patch, etched with the words “Let Them Never Be Forgotten.” The jerseys were auctioned off and several thousand dollars were raised. One anonymous fan bought the jersey worn by Chris Dingman and donated it to the Roberts’ family. All the players in the game signed the jersey and it was personally presented by the former Stanley Cup champion to Cindy in the locker room after the game.
The presentation made for a fitting finale to a great day for Lightning fans, players, police officers and the entire Tampa Bay community as they all came together to celebrate one of Tampa’s heroes and the start of a new hockey season.