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Local Heroes Lace Up the Kicks at Third Annual Sneaker Soiree

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

With hockey season on hiatus until late September, several Tampa Bay Lightning personalities including Martin St. Louis and head coach Jon Cooper didn't lace up the skates for Thursday night's celebration of all that Tampa Bay sports teams have to offer, but rather laced up the sneakers instead.

The occasion was none other than the Tampa Bay Sports Commission's third annual Sneaker Soiree, an event honoring the Bay Area's great athletes, both amateur and professional, their teams, and the significant impact each has on the community.

"We love to celebrate all the great things that go on in the Tampa Bay sports community, and this event is a way to do that to lend recognition to all the great moments of the season," Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins said. "It's really great to see."

Local sports stars, coaches and media personalities arrived on the red carpet and made their way inside the Pepin Hospitality Centre in Tampa to enjoy a VIP reception and cocktail hour before the event itself began promptly at 7:30 p.m.

From there, the show – emceed by ESPN television personality Jenn Brown – kicked off with an awards ceremony that featured a "Moment Of The Year" from each of the three professional teams in the area, the Lightning, Buccaneers and Rays.

On behalf of the Lightning organization, St. Louis accepted the award for the club for his performance this past season in which he led the NHL in points.

"It's an honor," St. Louis said. "There's a lot of good things going on here with the local sports teams in the community, so to be a part of that is special."

Cooper also took to the stage shortly after to participate in a roundtable discussion with Rays skipper Joe Maddon and Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, where the three discussed their individual philosophies on coaching, relating to players, how they got started in their respective areas, and their techniques in keeping players loose around the locker room during the grind of a long season.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn even made an appearance, capping off the event by presenting Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber with a key to the city for his service and dedication through athletic performance to the Tampa Bay community.

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