The Bolts opened their doors for their annual Ladies Lightning University on Friday November 5th. The event is an opportunity for women to head to Amalie Arena and explore areas that fans usually don’t get to see when visiting for games. Attendees get to interact with Lightning players and staff members to learn more about what they do on and off the ice. The team has done a great job in keeping the program fresh which is one of the big reasons so many come back from year to year. The 2016 edition was no exception.
Attendees started the evening in the newly remodeled Lexus lounge with some refreshments before the program got underway. The past few events have involved a raffle for fan experiences and signed merchandise. This year saw the raffle’s proceeds benefiting the newly formed Ryan Callahan foundation. $2,200 was raised to help the foundation in their fight against pediatric cancer. Ryan and Kyla Callahan joined us for a brief panel to discuss their goals for the foundation and the floor was opened up for anyone to ask questions.
After the question and answer period we split into groups and headed off into the locker room. Our first station began in the weight room with assistant athletic trainer Mike Poirier. He took us through the trainer’s room and the resources at their disposal in helping to treat the athletes. It’s amazing to thing how much they’re able to do in a small space and can pretty much pack everything up easily to take on the road.
Our next stop took us into the equipment room with assistant equipment manager Rob Kennedy. They have everything from sewing machines and heat presses for jerseys to the area where players can customize their sticks. We got a look at the process of creating skate guards for individual players and new technology that allows for skate blades to be changed easily without a player having to miss a shift.
We moved onto the locker room where defensemen Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr went over their game day routines. Sustr is the team DJ but if there are any issues with the new warm up mix know that the songs were selected by the team as a whole so don’t blame him. The stalls were set up for warm up skate the following day and it didn’t smell as bad as you might think. There was a definite stench of hockey equipment but it could have been a lot worse.
The players answered questions from the attendees on everything from their favorite arena to play in on the road (Garrison: Madison Square Garden, Sustr: Bell Centre in Montreal) to the benefits of not having to have roommates in hotels on the road thanks to the new CBA. There are some exceptions. As the youngest guy on the team Brayden Point rooms with the second youngest, Jonathan Drouin, on road trips.
From there we headed out onto the ice for a face off photo opportunity with Brayden Point. After all the pictures Brayden joined us in the stands to talk about his experiences in the NHL so far this season and answered questions.
After completing the stations all groups returned to the Lexus Lounge for the raffle drawings. Winners took home everything from a team signed jersey to the opportunity to watch warm up skate from the penalty box. It was an organized, well put together event from top to bottom. If you’ve never attended Ladies Lightning U I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for a look at the inner workings of the team that fans rarely get to experience. Women’s events can easily cross over into pandering territory but the Lightning always make us feel welcome and knowledgeable about the game. That might be the best part of all.