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Tim's Last Ride

by Lonnie Herman / Tampa Bay Lightning

What do you do after you’ve mastered the art and science of making ice in Florida? Well, heading to the dessert would be the next logical step, and that’s the direction Tampa Bay’s original Iceman, Tim Friedenberger, is going after one last turn on the Zamboni this Saturday night.

Friedenberger, the Vice President of Building Operations, counts himself among the very few and far between of staff who has been with the Lightning since their inaugural season in 1991. He made ice for the Lightning when they began play out at the Fairgrounds, a metal barn-like structure that was ice-resistant, and when they took up residence in the Thunderdome, now Tropicana Field, for three seasons while the St. Pete Times Forum was under construction. Neither of those surfaces were ever meant to hold ice, especially ice good enough for the high standards of the National Hockey League.

But putting ice where it previously wasn’t is one of the things that Friedenberger does best. He once installed a curling rink in the ballroom of the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas and when Caesar’s Palace decided to host an NHL exhibition contest outdoors, they turned to Tim to make the ice and keep it there.

Friedenberger, a Pennsylvania native, departs with more than 504 sheets of ice under his belt; that’s the amount of NHL games that he supervised the ice for through a wide variety of conditions, atmospheric and otherwise.  

Friedenberger also oversaw the conversions as the St. Pete Times Forum moved from one event to the next. One of his best memories concerns one of the first concert staged in the arena, headlined by Jimmy Buffett. Buffett and his band were doing a sound check on stage while Friedenberger’s team was setting up the venue, and it was not going well.

When Friedenberger finally sought to end the chaos, he yelled, “Everybody just stop!” Buffett and his group came to a sudden halt, too.

“Ok if we continue now?” Buffett asked.

So, along with his wife, Ginger, and their two children, this chapter of Friedenberger’s life will come to a close on Saturday, when he takes his last turn around the ice during the first intermission, accompanied by his nine year old son, Joey, before relocating the family to Las Vegas.
“That last ride will mean a lot to me,” Friedenberger reflected. “I entered the NHL with Tampa Bay and it’s meant so much to my life.”

But maybe not as much as to the people he worked with.

“As an organization, we have been lauded for our creativity, innovation and pursuit of excellence; no employee in the franchise’s history better personifies that reputation than the Iceman, Tim Friedenberger,” Sean Henry, COO of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum, said. “Tim’s accomplishments are of mythic proportion,” Henry continued. “His work ethic and commitment to excellence will be missed by the entire organization.”

Saturday night, after one last ride, the Iceman goeth. The only iceman the Tampa Bay Lightning have known.

Good luck, Tim. And thanks!

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