Tampa Hits The Ice With NHL All-Star Game
This weekend, the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Bay Area play host to the best players on ice for the National Hockey League All-Star Game.
Four Lightning players will be featured on the Atlantic Division team: leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, forward Braydon Point (who replaces the injured Victor Hedman), and Lightning captain Steve Stamkos will be part of the skills competition this Saturday and 3-on-3 tournament Sunday at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. Lightning Coach Jon Cooper will lead their team.
Stamkos told CBC Sports, "It's going to be a great showcase of a hockey city. To be able to share a moment with them is going to be special, especially in front of our home fans who greatly deserve something like this and I'm sure we'll put on a great show."
Former Lightning left wing Chris Dingman, who played with the Bolts when they won the Stanley Cup in 2004 said, "The players want to come...it's just a really fan-friendly experience, and it's exciting...the best players in the game, it's a very cool weekend."
Dingman was traveling with the Stanley Cup, which stopped at the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida Wednesday before it was taken by NHL representatives to Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base later in the day.
The All-Star game coincides with this year's Gasparilla Pirate Fest & Parade.
Dingman, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who now calls the Tampa Bay area his home, says hockey fans coming in for the All-Star game may be a little perplexed by the Gasparilla costumes, but he assures visitors, "we don't always dress like pirates."
This will be the second time Tampa has hosted the NHL All-Star Game. Thousands flocked to it back in 1999, the last time it came to town.
"We have four seats, but there's more than four of us," said Lightning season ticket holder Brenda Ficken. "So some will go to the All Star Game and some will go to the skills competition. And we'll all be down there for the other stuff. It'll just be a great, great, hockey weekend."
Friday will see a free music concert at Curtis Hixon Park, and from Friday through Sunday, there will be a free family festival full of hockey activities set up there and in the parking lot adjacent to Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.
Road closures during the weekend are likely to affect fans traveling into town. Detailed information on the NHL All-Star game and related events is here.