October 20, 1996. The day the St. Pete Times Forum, opened for business.
Those of us that were among the 20,543 in attendance will never forget it. We waited four seasons for the promised homeland, and often it seemed as if it would never become reality.
The team began in exile. There was a season in an old metal barn at the Florida State Fairgrounds and then three seasons in the cavernous ThunderDome (now Tropicana Field). Now, finally, the new building was set to open.
After the ribbon-cutting, the indoor fireworks and the colored smoke and thunder, the Lightning finally took to the ice against the New York Rangers. To take the opening face-off, Coach Terry Crisp sent out a line that consisted of Brian Bradley, Rob Zamuner and Mikael Andersson, with Roman Hamrlik as one of the two defensemen. A nice gesture, since all were original members of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the expansion season of '92-'93.
At 11:46 of Period 1, Brian Bradley netted the first goal in the building and the Lightning hustled to a 5-2 victory that night.
Tampabaylightning.com decided to catch up with the members of that team to see where they are now. With thanks to Lightning Alumni Director John Tucker, here is the best information we could track:
Cory Cross (D): After his days with the Lightning were up, he went on to play for Toronto, the New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Most recently he was playing in Germany for the Hamburg Freezers.
Rob Zamuner (F): After the Lightning he played for Ottawa and Boston before playing two seasons in Switzerland and one in Italy. He also spent one month playing in Australia. Currently resides in Toronto.
Shawn Burr (F): Ended his playing career in 2001; currently a stock broker in the Detroit area.
John Cullen (F): After winning a battle against cancer, Cullen currently owns a car dealership in Atlanta.
Brian Bradley (F): Currently ranked fourth on the all-time scoring list for the Lightning, Bradley still holds several Tampa Bay scoring records including goals in a season with 42. Currently an analyst for Sun Sports in Tampa.
Bill Houlder (D): Played with San Jose and Nashville after the Lightning and retired after the 2002-03 season. Currently residing in North Bay, Ontario
Brian Bellows (F): Ended a productive career in the NHL with the Washington Capitals after the 1998-99 season. Retired with 485 goals and 537 assists. Currently a stock broker in Minnesota.
Rudy Poeschek (D): A Tampa fan favorite because of his tough, aggressive style of play, retired from hockey in 2001 after a season in the IHL with the Houston Aeros. Recently moved back to his hometown in Terrace, British Columbia.
Daren Puppa (G): Retired in 2000, after four seasons with the Lightning. Still resides in Tampa.
Alex Selivanov (F): Netted a famous overtime goal in '96 vs. the Flyers to give the Lightning their first home Stanley Cup Playoff victory. Currently playing in his native Russia. His off-season home is Tampa.
Mikael Andersson (F): With the team from their inception, he closed out his career in 2003 in Sweden. Currently a European Scout for the Lightning.
Dino Ciccarelli (F): Ended his career after the 1998-99 season with the Florida Panthers, he scored 608 goals and 592 assists in a 21 year career. Currently is an owner of the Sarnia Sting hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League.
Jay Wells (D): Appeared in 21 games for the Lightning in 1996-97 and then retired after 16 seasons in the NHL. In 2006, played in 12 games for the Brantford Blast, an Ontario Hockey Association Senior League team. He was the only member of the squad with NHL experience. Current resident of the Buffalo area.
David Shaw (D): Retired from hockey in 2001, after 13 seasons in the NHL spent with 6 different teams. Currently resides in North Carolina.
Jason Wiemer (F): Currently in his second season as member of the New Jersey Devils, was the Lightning's #1 draft choice in 1994.
Roman Hamrlik (D): The first player ever drafted by the Lightning, the first selection overall of the 1992 draft. Currently in his 16th NHL season, now plays for the Calgary Flames.
Aaron Gavey (F): After leaving the Lightning, played for Calgary, Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto and Anaheim. Currently a member of the Cologne Sharks in the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) in Germany.
Patrick Poulin (F): Last seen as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 2002. Current whereabouts unknown.
Corey Schwab: (G): Ended a long professional career after the 2003-04 season with the New Jersey Devils. Currently the associate goaltending coach and scout for the Lightning.
Chris Gratton (F): Drafted #3 overall with the Lightning's 1st pick in the '93 entry draft, made his NHL debut in Tampa on 10/6/93 (youngest player ever to appear for the Lightning - 18 years, 3 months). Played a total of six seasons in Tampa. Currently a member of the Florida Panthers, his 6th NHL team.