Steven Stamkos won't be the only representative of the Tampa Bay Lightning present at the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend in Ottawa.
Joining the Bolts forward this season will be the team's head equipment manager, Ray Thill, who is set to play an active role behind the bench after being selected to participate in the annual mid-season classic festivities for the first time in his career.
"I'm very excited,"Thill said. "I've heard from some of the other equipment managers from other teams how fun it is and just hearing about all the good times they've had there over the years always made me a little jealous. I was happy to get the call and I'm looking forward to heading up there and seeing what it's all about."
That Thill's call to participate in the hoopla of All-Star Weekend is long overdue would be considered an understatement. The selection process for equipment staffers at the annual event is based on tenure, and Thill, now in his 11th year with the Lightning, has long awaited the opportunity.
Previously, Thill had been tabbed to serve in the same capacity for Team USA at the IIHF's 2008 World Championships, to which he credits for providing what he expects to be a seamless transition.
"Like I said, this will be my first time so I think I know a little of what to expect,"Thill added. "I'm used to working with players from the other NHL clubs from other tournaments, but really I think the thing I'm most excited about is meeting some new players and seeing how they are."
Thill also said he expects this year's All-Star showcase to provide more of a relaxing atmosphere than what he is used to during the Bolts' grueling 82-game regular season schedule.
"It's going to be fun," Thill said. "I think it's more of a reward for all of the hard work you put in throughout the year."
In his role with Tampa Bay, Thill is responsible for all equipment maintenance, inventory and ordering. Prior to joining the Lightning, he served as the equipment manager for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL for one season. Thill also spent four seasons on the equipment staff of the Chicago Wolves of the IHL, winning a Turner Cup Championship with the Wolves in 1997-98.
While in Ottawa taking part in the All-Star revelry, Thill will be joined by Lightning assistant equipment managers Rob Kennedy and Clay Roffer.