The Tampa Bay Lightning had a special fan in attendance when they tied a record for longest win streak in franchise history.
Rafael Amarante, a 27-year-old teacher from Brazil, watched the Lightning in person for the first time when they defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.
Tampa Bay will aim for its ninth consecutive victory Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, SUN, NHL.TV), which would eclipse the mark of eight set by the 2003-04 Stanley Cup championship team and was matched Thursday in a 4-1 win against the Ottawa Senators that moved the Lightning into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Coincidentally, it was the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup in 2004 that made Amarante a fan, as he explains in a video Tampa Bay posted earlier this week to promote its #DistantThunder campaign.
"I just loved how hard the Lightning played," said Amarante, who is from Rio Grande do Sul, a coastal town of about 250,000 in the southeastern part of the country. "They made me a believer. I've been passionate for the game ever since."
However, Amarante had never been to the United States to see his favorite team play. That's all set to change.
He said his favorite players on the current team are forward Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman.
"Kucherov is so skilled and unpredictable with the puck," Amarante said. "His hand-eye coordination is unbelievable. He's going to be a big star."
Though Amarante said he is the only hockey fan in his city, he's met other Lightning fans around the world through Internet message boards.
"I've met so many fans just like me online," he said. "Europe, Canada, even Australia. We're everywhere. … We are the global Lightning fans.