The Tampa Bay Lightning proudly hosted Hockey Day in Tampa Bay on Sunday, February 9 in a day that was filled with great hockey events involving members of the local ice hockey community.
The day started off as a showcase for local hockey talent with an All-Star game featuring the best young talent from Tampa area high schools. The players were split up evenly, with one team coached by Lightning alumni Brian Bradley and the other team coached by Stanely Cup-winning captain, Dave Andreychuk. Team Bradley consisted of student athletes from Bloomingdale, East Lake, Freedom, Mitchell, Newsome, H.B. Plant, River Ridge and Sarasota high schools. Team Andreychuk featured student athletes from Berkley Prep, George Jenkins, Jesuit, Manatee, Palm Harbor, Steinbrenner, Seminole, Wiregrass, and Wharton high schools. The game was an offensive affair, resulting in a final score of 8-5 in favor of Team Bradley.
The second major event of the day featured the Lightning Sled Hockey team alongside Andreychuk, Bradley again as well as Lightning alumni Jassen Cullimore, Chris Kontos and Chris Dingman. Sled hockey athletes use a metal frame with two blades, and instead of using one stick, players use two with ice picks on the end to propel them down the ice. The game was competitive throughout, resulting in a 4-4 tie.
"It was fun and it was humbling for us for sure," Andreychuk said. "All those players that were there are extremely good athletes. It's important to remember that I get to get up and walk away and they don't get to do that. So for them to have all that fun out there is pretty cool."
The day concluded with the Lightning Conference Championship Game. This game consisted of the two of the best high school teams from the Greater Tampa Bay-area, the Mitchell Mustangs and the Manatee Admirals. Mitchell dominated the game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead by the end of the first period. The Mustangs offense was led by freshman, Lucas Sowder, who recorded four points (two goals, two assists) and was named MVP.
"It was very nerve racking," Sowder said. "We really wanted to get to this championship game for the seniors. We ended up coming out big."
The Admirals would not go down without a fight though, scoring two goals during the third period. However, the Mustangs were able to score two third period goals of their own to secure the 6-2 victory and the Lightning Conference Cup.
In addition to all the on-ice action, the Lightning hosted a hockey equipment sale consisting of both new equipment and equipment used by Lightning players. All proceeds from this sale went to Lightning community hockey initiatives.
Overall, Hockey Day in Tampa Bay was a resounding success that demonstrated both the level of hockey talent in the Tampa area, as well as the Lightning organization's commitment to fostering and growing that talent level.
"What we had planned for the day put everything in one package," Andreychuk said. "I think it's awesome. It's where all hockey communities can come together in one day and that is special for us."