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Lightning team with NHL and NHLPA to 'Build the Thunder' in Tampa Bay

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning, in conjunction with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), is investing more than $6 million over the next five years to grow the game of hockey and teach life skills lessons to Tampa Bay's young people, Lightning Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik announced today. Vinik was joined in making the announcement by team President and CEO Steve Griggs and Executive Director of Community Hockey Development Jay Feaster. The program, titled Build the Thunder, marks the franchise's third major community initiative under Vinik since he purchased the Lightning in 2010.

"I am so proud to be able to share my love of hockey with the youth of the Tampa Bay region as we introduce an extensive program that will grow new hockey fans while also giving us the opportunity to feature Lightning players and alumni as role models and 'teachers' for our children," said Vinik upon making the announcement. "As they grow their knowledge of hockey, 100,000 young people in our community will also learn critical life and educational skills."

The Lightning are introducing five separate, five-year initiatives under the Build the Thunder umbrella.

•Equip the Thunder – distributing 100,000 street hockey sticks and balls to third through fifth graders through an extensive school outreach program

•Train the Thunder – offering 10,000 hours of progressive training opportunities for players and coaches

•Develop the Thunder – increasing the number of youth players (7-13 year olds) registered with USA Hockey in the Tampa Bay area by 1,000

•Guide the Thunder – utilizing Lightning players, coaches and alumni as life skills mentors to identify and work with 100 at-risk youth from diverse backgrounds

•Create the Thunder – establishing 10 junior varsity hockey programs for aspiring high school hockey players

"When rejoining the Lightning organization just over a year ago, I told Jeff Vinik and Steve Griggs that I looked forward to making a difference in the community that was so good to my family and me for many years," said Jay Feaster, who will direct the Build the Thunder program. "We'd like thank the National Hockey League and the NHLPA for joining with us to help make that possible for Tampa Bay’s young people. Additionally, we are grateful to JP Morgan Chase and Bauer Hockey for agreeing to partner with us on our programming and activation.”

As its Executive Director, Feaster leads the Lightning’s Community Hockey Development, which has been hard at work for the past year identifying areas of need and laying the groundwork for Build the Thunder. The program sowed its first seeds of 2015-16 this afternoon as 350 children from area Boys and Girls Clubs and local YMCA’s received Bauer Hockey street hockey sticks and instruction from Lightning players and alumni just outside Amalie Arena.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning has played a leading and innovative role in growing our game, which is why we’re excited to partner with them and expand our shared goal of welcoming more families to hockey,” said Rich Wuerthele, Executive Vice President, Bauer Hockey.

JPMorgan Chase is Build the Thunder’s leading sponsor, deepening a partnership with the Lightning and its Community Hockey Department, which has included the Street Lightning and CHASE Your Dreams programs. “We are very proud to partner with the Lightning in creating programs that brings sports and academics together in a fun and engaging way for youth—it is very rewarding and a critical part of our work together ,” said Mike Dosal, market leader for Chase in Tampa.

Those that are interested in learning more about Build the Thunder and scheduling a visit for their school or youth group should contact Josh Dreith by emailing or by calling 813 301 6722.

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