Lightning players, coaches and team representatives brought a taste of Las Vegas to Tampa Bay on Sunday, January 24 as they played host to the organization’s annual “Glitz and Sticks, a Celebrity Casino Evening” at the Hyatt Regency Tampa.
Presented by Dex Imaging, the elegant affair once again served as the Lightning Foundation’s annual hallmark event with proceeds benefiting the Tampa General Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as well as the Lightning Foundation’s Annual Grant Program.
“This is the eighth annual Glitz and Sticks and again we’re tremendously excited about it,” explained Kasey Dowd Smith, Executive Director of the Lightning Foundation. “The Annual Grant Program is a way for the Lightning and the Lightning Foundation to give back across the Bay Area. Last year we were able to give to 18 organizations more than $80,000 and this year we only hope to do more.”
And do more it will, as the Foundation’s first event of 2010 proved a resounding success.
After welcoming guests to the much-anticipated engagement, Lightning play-by-play announcer and guest emcee Rick Peckham turned the floor over to celebrity auctioneer Jen Holloway of Bright House Networks for a spirited live auction during which those in attendance generously pledged more than $35,000 on a variety of unique prize packages and opportunities to interact with Lightning players.
Among those fetching top dollar were the chance to accompany the Bolts on the team charter for an upcoming road trip, a fishing excursion with resident angler and seafood aficionado Mike Smith as well as an hour of on-ice entertainment with young stars Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie.
Immediately following the very animated bidding war, Lightning players upped the ante by manning a variety of gaming tables as guests went “all in”, testing their luck against all the team’s players.
Assistant captain Martin St. Louis held court at the craps table, jubilantly high-fiving the winners as he oversaw each roll of the dice while Zenon Konopka, Matt Smaby, and Andrej Meszaros tried their hand as blackjack dealers.
Hard-hitting defenseman Matt Walker could also be found doling out cards rather than hip checks, though the infrequent gambler did admit to suffering bouts of precursory jitters as he was “a little nervous” about his dealing skills.
Players like Smith and Ryan Malone even pulled double-duty, splitting their time between the casino and the always-popular photo booth where they hammed it up and posed with fans and guests alike during an impromptu and no doubt memorable photo shoot.
Additional opportunities to give were provided by a distinct silent auction that featured everything from autographed Lightning memorabilia to a round of golf with none other than Tocchet and assistant coach Adam Oates.
Those looking to take a breather from the gambling and bidding action were presented a wide variety of activities from exploring the lavish spread of gourmet delicacies at their disposal, dancing to the tunes of ‘Late Night Brass’, mingling with the Lightning Girls and talking hockey with fellow fans.
All in all, a great time was had by everyone involved, including the Lightning players who were all too happy to continue the tradition of trading in dekes for dice and ice time for face time with members of the Tampa Bay community.
“It was good,” Lightning forward Jeff Halpern said. “I snuck a little money under the table for the people I liked. We had a nice time.”
As did Ron Hytoff, CEO of Tampa General Hospital, who provided a little insight into what will be done with the money raised in support of TGH.
“The neonatal intensive care unit has been under reconstruction now for about six months,” Hytoff said. “It’s a $35 million expansion project so it only seems appropriate that whatever funds we receive from this event would go towards that.”
Many thanks to the generosity of each of the over 500 guests in attendance as well as major sponsors Sykes Enterprises, Constellation Wines, New York Life, FrankCrum, GrantThornton, Banfi Vintners, Element, Russian Standard Vodka, Bailey Family Foundation, Resource Technologies, James Scully, Tires Plus, Winslow Family, TECO Energy, Bright House Networks, CW 44, St. Petersburg Times, The Florida Aquarium, Monica Bansky, Sun Sports, Julia Cosma, XO Communications, James Rivard Buick GMC, Bacardi, Bud Light, FASTSIGNS, Heineken, Nexxtworks, Zephyrhills, Southwest Airlines, Swank AV, Moates Florist and Chocolates by Michelle for supporting this great cause and proving once again that in the NHL, the greatest assist happens off the ice.