The Tampa Bay Lightning were not the only ones to kick off the 2010-11 hockey season with a bang.
A day after the Bolts 5-3 season-opening win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, 19 teams from Tampa Bay Area regional high schools opened their seasons as well, participating in the inaugural Lightning High School Hockey Jamboree. Each team received the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to skate in two games on an official NHL rink, with some teams getting the chance to play three games due to the odd number of teams in the pool.
High school squads spanning Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, Polk and Manatee Counties all converged at the St. Pete Times Forum this past Sunday to compete in a fun, non-competitive tournament to kick off the high school season and to celebrate the inception of high school hockey’s new governing body, the Florida High School Hockey Association.
The event, which drew approximately 2,500 people throughout the day, was a huge success, as the Lightning received nothing but positive feedback from players, coaches and parents alike.
“The turnout was fantastic,” Manager of Community Hockey Initiatives Mark Sofia said. “We received numerous responses from players, coaches and parents thanking us for such a fun-filled day, and I know they are just as excited as we are to build upon the event next year.”
The Lightning High School Hockey Jamboree kicked off the 2010-11 season for the Lightning youth hockey department, which also has other great events planned with a goal of growing the game among Tampa Bay’s youth and ensuring that the sport receives proper recognition in the Bay Area.
The organization has two Lightning Made youth hockey clinics set for October 20 and December 6, as well as High School Hockey Appreciation Night, which will occur later on in the season. Certain game nights are also reserved for Mite Intermissions, when youth players aged 6-9 years old scrimmage on the Times Forum ice at the designated breaks in play of home games throughout the season.
The Lightning Cup will conclude the 2010-11 high school season in March, when the top two teams from the Lightning Conference’s West and Central Divisions will face off at center ice of the St. Pete Times Forum to battle for the conference championship.
The organization’s dedication to the sport in the community also extends beyond the game’s typical demographics, as it will also reach out to girls interested in playing hockey as well this season, with a new initiative entered into with the Girl Scouts of America.
In addition, as part of the NHL Diversity Program, the Lightning, in conjunction with the Volusia Youth Hockey Association (VYHA), are proud to support the Hockey Is For Everyone program, which allows underprivileged children an opportunity to play hockey free of charge.
The entire Lightning organization continues to follow through with its commitment of growing the game of hockey among teenagers in Florida. In addition, it continues to show its dedication to community hockey initiatives through a more hands-on approach, with the goal of promoting the game across all demographics throughout the Tampa Bay area.
“We expect the fantastic turnout of the High School Hockey Jamboree to be indicative of our future community youth hockey initiatives coming up later on in the season,” Sofia added. “On behalf of the organization, we’d like to thank all the athletes and their families for making our events such a huge success.”