Dave Andreychuk (center) stands open in the slot while Gary Tinschert (right) readies a defense at Ice Fest 2010 (photo credit: Jeff Dickie, Bill Wade, Gary Tinschert)
The excitement and positive karma surrounding the players’ first day back at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday extended into the evening, as more than 4,000 fans packed into the arena to celebrate the Lightning’s annual Ice Fest fan event.
Despite inclement weather, fans still filed in around 5 p.m. to enjoy festivities on the West Plaza including kids’ games, a ‘Gearage Sale’ featuring game-used hockey equipment and demonstrations facilitated by both the Tampa Police Department and Tampa Fire Department. Those Tampa servicemen and women, as well as their families, were led on a tour of the recently-renovated Lightning locker room, which features pictures of the team’s 2004 Stanley Cup run as well as motivational slogans painted on the walls.
In a strong community effort to raise money for the Curtis/Kocab Memorial Fund, formed in honor of Tampa Police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, who were killed in the line of duty on June 30, members of the city’s law enforcement organizations, fire departments and Lightning alumni participated in a charity hockey game which raised approximately $14,000, which marked the highest total in recent memory.
“It is with great honor we regard the City of Tampa Police and Fire Departments as part of the Lightning family,” Executive Director of the Lightning Foundation Kasey Smith said. “We were thrilled tonight to host so many of Tampa’s finest and bravest. We thank our tremendous fans for donating and supporting our continued outreach to benefit the Curtis/Kocab Memorial Fund.”
Team Red, led by the Tampa Fire Department’s David Vinciguerra, defeated Team Blue who received goals from former Lightning players John Tucker and Stan Neckar. The overwhelming highlight of the scrimmage, however, was evident in the thousands of fans who packed the seats to watch, as well as those who participated to support the great cause.
The contest kicked off with a ceremonial puck drop by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio shortly after the families of both Officers Curtis and Kocab were honored with a standing ovation following a special jersey presentation. Each family received a Lightning jersey embroidered with the officers’ names and badge numbers on the back, surrounded by 28 signatures of players comprising the current Lightning roster.
“We enjoyed the event so much,” Lightning fan Martin Hassler said. “It’s always fun to come down and watch some hockey and get some autographs, but so much of tonight went towards a great cause. It’s really great to see the Lightning turning things around, not only on the ice, but from a community standpoint as well.”
Members of the Lightning broadcast team, including television play-by-play man Rick Peckham, color analyst Bobby “the Chief” Taylor and the voice of Lightning radio, Dave Mishkin, provided analysis and humorous commentary from the bench as play unfolded on the ice.
Following the scrimmage, fans received an additional dose of hockey, as they received their first opportunity to watch the Lightning team practice on the St. Pete Times Forum’s brand new ice sheet. Head Coach Guy Boucher led the session, as fans enjoyed watching a number of drills and a shootout between teammates. The players then came off the ice and signed autographs for 45 minutes up until the conclusion of the night, while those who came out in support of the event participated in an open skate with Thunderbug and the Lightning Girls.
“What a great night,” Lightning fan and Clearwater resident Jennifer Maxson said. “We look forward to this event every year. Whether you are a hockey fan or not, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. This year was even better than last with the improvements to the building and all of the additions. I’m already excited about next year.”