As head coach Jon Cooper commented on the Lightning’s bonding activities at MacDill Air Force Base Tuesday, he sounded almost as if he was a native Floridian with his remarks regarding local weather patterns.
Yet he admits that he is still a novice at catching…pelicans, as P.C. Labrie did during last season’s fishing outing.
“I’m a rookie, fly fishing is about as far as I’ve gone, but when you throw the bait in those birds are animals,” Cooper said, as he shared stories and exchanged laughs about the Lightning’s fishing adventures with the media.
Other teammates also shared their memories from the day:
“We had really good guides,” Teddy Purcell said. “But they brought us to the wrong spot, so everybody came back with these huge fish and we came back with little ones, so it wasn’t fun for us.”
“It was my first time going fishing on a boat,” Ondrej Palat said about sharing the fish he caught on the Twitterverse . “I was proud, but after it wasn’t the biggest fish caught, I was disappointed.”
Entrenched in a team-wide competition of who could catch the biggest fish, the results of who actually did were just based on rumors that “Richard [Panik] had the biggest one,” according to Purcell.
All jokes aside, Tuesday’s off-ice ventures that included fishing and a barbeque with the entire coaching staff and teams’ families, had a valuable message behind it – who is a part of the team goes beyond the rink.
“The older guys have families, so it’s harder for them to spend even more time away from their family,” Purcell said. “Even though everyone’s families, and wives and girlfriends, aren’t at the rink every day, they are a part of this team, so we’re trying to create that family atmosphere.”
Cooper was extremely happy with the outcome and said it was something he plans on doing again.
Coach joked with media that he learned which players could, and could not, throw a ball thanks to Tuesday's dunk tank antics.
Cooper also learned an important tidbit about the Lightning that he wouldn’t have known if they did not take a break from the ice.
There’s a reason the Bolts play hockey and not baseball.
Rookies were forced to sit in a dunk tank and face the veterans’ best shot, but unfortunately it seemed a little cheating went on to actually get them “dunked.”
“Nobody could hit the target with the ball to dunk us,” Palat said. “One of the trainers ran up and hit it himself, so it was kind of cheap.”
One veteran shared a little insight into his strategy too.
“We started back and kept going closer and closer to finally hit the target,” Purcell said. “Sometimes we started just going up to the target and pushing it with our hands to make the young guys get in, but they were really good sports about it.”
Earlier in the week Cooper was undecided on whether he thought Tampa Bay’s four-day break between games was beneficial or not, but Wednesday he came to the conclusion that it was not a significant factor in the outcome of Thursday or Saturday’s game.
“Whatever the result is against Chicago and Buffalo, I’m not going to pin it on how our day was yesterday,” he said. “The way we are doing things here is long term. There are changes going on and this is part of them and the long term is going to help.”
The four days between games is one of just two (November 3-6) four-day breaks this season, not including Christmas and the Olympic break.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Some of Wednesday’s areas of focus included where the staff wants the Lightning to be positioned during different game scenarios, special teams, as well as where they want forwards to be in front of the net when they have possession – all areas the Bolts have been trying to find consistency in.