I was honored to be invited to serve as Bolts Social Captain for Thursday’s Lightning game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.
I watched my first Tampa Bay Lightning game from the rickety old press box at the Florida State Fairgrounds in 1992. The Bolts lost that game to the Winnipeg Jets, who featured rookie Teemu Selanne. It was the first hockey game of my life.
Remember that old barn they played in that first year? Remember the faint whiff of cow when you walked through the Expo Hall door? Remember how the walls, rafters and bleachers shook when the fans really got going? Remember Chris Kontos, Terry Crisp, Brian Bradley, John Tucker? Remember Roman Hamrlik?
That’s one reason why I was so honored to be asked to serve as the Lightning’s Social Media Captain Thursday when the Bolts host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I’ve followed this club since the beginning, and now I feel like this online journal has helped me come full circle. My sons have never been to a hockey game, and they still don’t really understand what I used to do for a living before they were old enough to form memories. This event is yet another opportunity for them to peer through a virtual window to my past and, maybe, get an idea of what my life used to be like when I was a sportswriter.
Since receiving the invitation to serve as Bolts Social Captain last week, memories of my on-and-off association with the team over the years have come fast and furious.
I was at that Jets-Bolts game at the barn in 1992 to help out the Tampa Tribune’s hockey writer, Roy Cummings. My job was to “run quotes,” which meant dashing down to the dressing room and grabbing a comment or two from Crispy and a few players, then climbing back up to that precarious gantry and transcribing the quotes for Roy to use in his game story. I don’t think he used them, actually, but that didn’t matter because HOCKEY had hooked me.
Fourteen years, two arenas − and one Stanley Cup championship − later, I was assigned to help cover the Lightning for the Tribune for three seasons starting midway through 2005-06. It was the era of Vinny, Marty, Brads and Torts, an era of promise, an era defined by the stratospheric success of those 2003-04 Stanley Cup champions.
I was fortunate enough to tag along with beat writer Erik Erlendsson as the Lightning lost in the first round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons to Ottawa and New Jersey. The Stanley Cup Playoffs, as any hockey fan knows, give us some of the most intense emotional experiences you’ll find in sports. It will be good to have playoff hockey back at the Forum next week.
Even though the Bolts lost early in the postseason during my time on the beat, I knew I was covering something special, something that I’d include among the highlights of my 24-year sports journalism career.
The Lightning even figured, indirectly, in one of my most memorable moments as a dad. On the day my wife went into labor with Chris, I happened to be helping to cover a news conference introducing Oren Koules and Len Barrie as team owners. I had just finished asking Barrie a question about their plans for the undeveloped land around the arena when my mobile phone began to buzz in my pocket. While Barrie answered my question, I glanced at the caller ID − it was my wife, and I knew why she was calling.
I answered the phone with a whisper − “Hang on!” − and waited as patiently as I could for Barrie to finish his answer. The instant he was done, I bolted out of my front-row seat and whispered something incoherent to the Tribune’s hockey editor about labor and the baby’s coming and I had to go to the hospital and I’ll see you later and then I was gone.
About two hours later, Chris was born.
As Bolts Social Captain, it will be my duty to bring you as much behind-the-scenes hockey fun as you can possibly stand. To that end, as my family and I take in a tour of the arena and then watch the game, I’ll be tweeting about our experience at @DadScribe using the hashtags #BoltsSocial, #BeTheThunder, #TBLightning, and #BoltsSocialCaptain. I’ll also be posting plenty of photos on Instagram at my DadScribe account. You also will want to follow all of the Tampa Bay Lightning social channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr.
Thursday’s game features another return “home” for Flyers center Vinny Lecavalier (that still is very strange to write) and also continues the Lightning’s Fan Appreciation Week. It’s Military Appreciation Night, which means military personnel receive free popcorn and peanuts and can meet former Lightning greats Brian Bradley and Dave Andreychuk at the Social Quad during pregame.
Oh, one more thing. This is an incredible honor for me. The list of previous Social Captains reads like a Who’s Who of social media giants and local sports celebs. Here’s a cool story with video and GIFs of Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson’s recent appearance as Bolts Social Captain. I couldn’t buy 400 tickets for military personnel like he did, but I will have the privilege of introducing this incredible sport and team to my sons.
And you are invited along for the ride. Hope you can join us.