Free Agency can change the make up of your team in a matter of minutes. A forward here, a defenseman there. It’s the annual reminder that professional sports are a business and every team wants to do what they can to contend for the Cup. Tampa Bay has more than a few new faces this summer. This means new people learning Guy Boucher’s system and new teammates to gel with. The road to improving the team isn’t always a smooth one. For example, free agency played a part in breaking up the most epic Lightning bromance since Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards.
Ryan Malone and Mike Smith both found their way to Tampa around the same time. Smith arrived in February of 2008 as part of the trade that sent Brad Richards to Dallas. Malone arrived in June of the same year after the team acquired his negotiating rights from Pittsburgh. The two men had seemingly little on common. They had never been teammates and played very different positions on the ice. In spite of this, a magical friendship began to bloom.
It wasn’t long until they were together everywhere. The arena shows a question and answer segment with the players on the jumbotron at the games. Fans ask a question and each player is shown giving their answer on the screen. Except for Bugsy and Smitty. Their segments were always filmed together. The photo on this piece comes from a Happy New Year piece filmed a few years ago. Yup, together again.Â Whenever there were player appearances, they were joined at the hip. One of the most memorable Lightning radio shows took place with both of them at a local McDonalds. There may or may not have been some neck rubs involved. My friends and I started referring to them as “Smalone”.
Mike Smith’s signing with Phoenix was announced early on July 1st and that would appear to be that. A friendship like Ryan & Mike’s gives us an insight to the lockerroom and the chemistry of the teams we follow so passionately. It’s nice to see that they enjoy each other’s company as much as we enjoy cheering them on.Â Here’s hoping these guys stay in touch or at least look into Skype.Â As for Tampa’s fans? We look to next season, more hockey, and the next bromance.