The celebration may have been delayed by the lockout, but that didn’t stop the Tampa Bay Lightning from kicking off their 20th anniversary season in memorable fashion. Before the game against the Washington Capitals began, a ceremony remembering six men who were part of the inaugural game took place.
Several members of the team were announced before the first puck drop. Center Brian Bradley, goaltender Pat Jablonski, defenseman Joe Reekie, and winger Chris Kontos. In the franchise’s first game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Kontos; 4 goal performance led the Bolts to a 7-3 victory. He remains the only Lightning player to score 4 in a game to date.
Phil Esposito,the team’s first general manager as well as the man who played an integral part in bringing the franchise to Tampa, got the honors of dropping the puck. But not before another piece of Lightning history joined the tableau. Roman Hamrlik was selected first overall by the Lightning in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. The 38 year old defenseman is currently playing for the Caps. What fortuitous timing.
As Hamrlik and current Lightning Captain Vinny Lecavalier came to center ice, Hamrlik shook hands with all. There was a great moment where Esposito reached out, put a hand on his neck and brought him close for a few words. Apparently, those words had to do with Roman being skinnier now than he was when he was 18.
The nostalgia also included a fantastic trip down memory lane shown on the video board. What an absolute beauty of a piece. If this is how things kicked off, we’re definitely in for something special as the season continues.