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Global Series

Lightning surprise fans who traveled to Sweden for Global Series

Players, coaches meet with groups in Stockholm for games against Sabres

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

STOCKHOLM -- The surprise came at the end of the speech.

Dave Andreychuk stood before about 150 Tampa Bay Lightning fans in an ornate room at the Grand Hôtel, a five-star palace that opened in 1874 across the water from Gamla stan, the old town of Stockholm.

First, he fired them up for the Lightning to play the Buffalo Sabres in the 2019 NHL Global Series here on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, NHL.TV) and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, SUN, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

Then he built the suspense.

"We're very, very happy that you're here," said the Hockey Hall of Famer, who was captain of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup championship team and is now their vice president of corporate and community affairs. "I want you to understand that what's going to happen next is special.

"Very, very special."

Hmm …

Soon afterward, Andreychuk made the big reveal.

"In 10 minutes," he said, "the whole team is going to come into the room."

There were audible gasps, then cheers and applause.

Executives, coaches and players walked in to more cheers and applause. They mingled, signed autographs and took pictures for about a half-hour before going to a team dinner.

"This is just fantastic," said Dawn Facko, a Lightning fan from Riverview, Florida. "And I really cannot wait to see the guys out on the ice in the Ericsson Globe and get the vibe for what that arena is like over here with the European style."

Months ago, the Lightning offered about 125 travel packages for fans who wanted to see Tampa Bay play overseas -- one package to Stockholm for the Global Series, another to Stockholm for the Global Series and to London for more sightseeing.

Fans snapped them up so quickly that the Lightning couldn't accommodate everyone.

"As soon as it was sold out," Andreychuk said, "I started getting emails."

The Lightning think about 200 more fans bought trips to Stockholm and tickets to the games on their own.

The fans who brought the travel packages arrived in two groups Tuesday -- one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The second group arrived shortly before the event. They knew something was up, and some hoped to meet the players. But they had no specifics, not even a location.

"They said, 'You have 15 minutes to get dressed and on the bus,' " said Bob Shappell, a season-ticket holder from Pinellas Park, Florida. "Even the bus driver said, 'It's a secret.' They weren't going to tell us what it was."

Along with other VIPs, including two team employees who won a contest, the fans arrived at the Grand Hôtel, where the Lightning are staying in Stockholm. They were led to the room, where beverages and hors d'oeuvres were waiting.

Andreychuk was there. So was Brian Bradley, the star of Tampa Bay's inaugural season, who had 86 points (42 goals, 44 assists) in 1992-93. So was Phil Esposito, the Hockey Hall of Famer who founded the Lightning and is now their vice president of corporate relations.

"Why are we here?" Andreychuk asked the crowd.

"To win!" someone said.

"We're going to win two games," Andreychuk said.

"Yeah!" the crowd responded.

"We're going to outcheer them."


"We're going to be the loudest group in that dome."


"That's what Bolt Nation is all about."

That's what this event was all about.

When the players arrived, the fans thanked them for coming, and vice versa.

"This is wonderful," said Lynn Bumiller, a second-ticket holder from Valrico, Florida. "This is why we bought the team package, to have access to some special things that the people traveling on their own wouldn't be able to do.

"Plus, I mean, it's just a lot more fun if you're with the whole group. We'll be sitting together. We'll be going to events together. It just makes for camaraderie."

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