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While Sunday was a day off on the ice, it was an important day for the Lightning nonetheless. In what has been a Holiday tradition for several years, Lightning players, coaches and management and their spouses held a special party at the St. Pete Times Forum for children stricken by cancer. For two hours Sunday the Lightning family was able to brighten the day for these families from the Children’s Cancer Center who have much too much on their minds these days.
The players, coaches and management receive Christmas lists from the families weeks in advance and do all the shopping for not only the sick child, but his/her siblings and parents as well. Considering all the smiles that could be seen at the party yesterday, I’m not sure who enjoyed the day more – the families or the players.
The Lightning Hockey Operations Department Christmas Party was held later in the day at the Forum, with holiday sweaters replacing hockey sweaters as the players, coaches and staff hit the ice with their families. Based on some of the hockey skills being displayed by the kids, I’d say it’s a safe bet that some of the top youth hockey talent in the area is coming from the Lightning family!
It was back to business on the ice today as the team held a 75 minute practice at the St. Pete Times Forum before flying to Atlanta for tomorrow night’s important Southeast Division clash with the Thrashers. Lightning coach John Tortorella usually puts the team through a 45-50 minute workout on travel days, but it was an intense Tortorella on the ice today trying to eliminate some bad habits that have crept into the team’s game. The pace was high and the hitting was at game intensity, so I’d bet the team is ready to go tomorrow night.