Sonya Bryson-Kirksey made her return to the Amalie Arena ice on Tuesday after an offseason that left her singing career in jeopardy.
Bryson-Kirksey has been one of the faces of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, as much as any of the players, with her powerful voice and bright blue lipstick. But over the summer she was hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia for almost two weeks.
"There is so much going through my brain," she told the Tampa Bay Times. "Just the overall happiness of being here … the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the ice, the players - just all of that, just everything kind of mushed into one and how it makes it seem like I've been away for years, but you don't believe how that one month can make a difference."
She told the Times that one of the doctors recommended she not sing again until 2022 because of a persistent cough she had when she was released from the hospital in August, but that only made her determined to get her vocal strength back in time for the season.
"After COVID, you have new lungs," Bryson-Kirksey said. "Your lungs don't work the way they did before."
By the Lightning's home opener, it probably wouldn't have mattered if she whispered the "Star-Spangled Banner," the crowd was so happy to see her, they gave her a long standing ovation before she belted out the anthem like she's done so many times before.