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Bear Essentials On the Road: Tampa Bay

Saturday, 02.23.2008 / 9:03 AM ET / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop  -
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Bear Essentials On the Road: Tampa Bay
Bear Essentials on the Road: TAMPA, FLORIDA (ST. PETE TIMES Forum)

Tampa Bay
Where are we going?
Tampa Bay, Florida, is an “area that encompasses three counties and is 'home' to over 2 million residents,” says Tampa’s Chamber of Commerce website.  “It's a home filled with sunny beaches and bright futures. It offers great business opportunities and low costs for doing business.”

Home to both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as the “Number One Zoo in the United States for Kids,” Tampa Bay has “the largest performing arts center in the southeast [and] the largest science museum in the south….It’s one of the few markets in America with two major metropolitan newspapers [and] the #1 ranked airport in the country.”

The area attracts millions of tourists, and “if you’re looking for a great way of life, it doesn’t get better than Tampa Bay,” says the website.

“Just remember, the sunshine, sunsets and gulf breezes are free!”
St. Pete Times Forum
Where are we playing?
The arena’s website calls the St. Pete Times Forum “Florida’s Premiere Sports and Entertainment Destination.”

The Forum is “the jewel of downtown Tampa…[featuring] state-of-the-art technology and innovative design, which combine to make the St. Pete Times Forum one of the finest facilities in North America.”

It opened in 1996, then named the Ice Palace, and has hosted the 1999 All-Star Game as well as four of the seven 2004 Stanley Cup Finals games.

A total 660,000 square feet, the Forum holds 19,500 for hockey games.
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
Who are we playing?
The Tampa Bay Lightning played their first NHL season in 1992-1993.  “The team took its first baby steps when 72 players gathered on the choppy ice at the Lakeland Civic Center on September 12, 1992” to try to impress GM Phil Esposito and head coach Terry Crisp, says the team’s website.

The first regular-season game at the Thunderdome on October 9, 1993, drew 27,227 fans, a league record for a regular season game.

Again during the 1993-1994 season, then-Los Angeles King Wayne Gretzky faced Lightning player and brother Brent for the only time in his career

Ten years later, the team garnered 106 points during regular season play, second-best in the league only to the Detroit Red Wings and the first 100-point season in franchise history.

The Lightning beat the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens, entering the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever.  They beat the Calgary Flames in seven games to become 2003-2004 Stanley Cup Champions, the southernmost team to do so, as well as the third-fastest, according to Wikipedia.

When are we playing?
7:30 p.m. ET.

Who's playing for us?
We'll know in a bit.

Is the game on?
Yes.  Tune in to Dave, Bob, Brick, Rob and Jack on NESN and WBZ for coverage.
9:10 a.m..
I am getting ready to head over to the St. Pete Times Forum. We can walk from our hotel, and it is a beautiful day here in Florida -- so it should be a nice stroll over to the rink.

In the meantime, get ready for the game tonight by tuning in to the New England Hockey Journal Show.

The New England Hockey Journal Show will broadcast live on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on 890 ESPN in Boston (1400 AM Lowell-Lawrence-NH) and online at

Mick Colageo and Kevin Dupont will be in studio to take calls and Matt Kalman will report from rink side in Tampa, where the Bruins will be in their morning skate. Other guests: Kevin Allen of USA Today and NESN's Rick Middleton.

Last year the NEHJ Show broke a trade on their weekend before trade deadline show, so don't miss it!

1:12 p.m.
Long story short:
Alex Auld in goal. Chuck Kobasew not playing, but should be okay for Tuesday. Pettri Nokelainen in. Peter Schaefer and Bobby Allen are out.

And, perhaps in a sorrowful goodbye gesture -- it is RAINING!

Oh well,you knew the perfect weather couldn't last, particularly since we are returning to snowy New England late tonight.

4:22 p.m.
Just finished packing.

We have to pack everything before the game, because we have a 5:15 p.m. bus prior to the 7:30 p.m. game and DO NOT go back to the hotel. We will go straight to the airport following the contest and fly most of the night to get back to Massachusetts -- where I hear you got nine inches of snow.


It's tough to pack up so soon. It is nice to travel, but it stinks that you really don't get to know a place in just a couple of days. I am still thinking about our first trip of the regular season to California and how much I would like to go back and re-see some of what I saw and see some more.

It happened here, too.

As for hockey, although the support personnel are tired, the coaching staff and players look fresh and ready to play. Look for a bit of a line shuffle with Kobasew out and Nokelainen in. And I think that Alex Auld is due for another big game.

Gotta get ready for the bus.

5:49 p.m.
The B's are in the house.

I am sitting here wondering if I will have to dig my car out when I get back to Boston...

6:12 p.m.
Earlier today, after morning skate, Alex Auld sat in his stall in the St. Pete Time Forum attempting to cool down from his time between the pipes during the warm up to tonight's contest with Tampa Bay.

"It's always fun to play," said Auld, fresh off a baseball-like relief win over Florida. "It's great to get a chance -- obviously, these are big points for us.

"And I am looking forward [to the game]."

Auldie has been a trooper since coming over to Boston and tonight he'll play in his most important game with the Black & Gold.

"It was strange going back there," admitted Auld of Florida. "It was…a weird situation.

"You get thrown into a situation where you have nothing to lose and we end up coming back.

"It was a great feeling -- it's always nice to beat a former team -- they obviously didn't want me and you try to show them what they are missing," he said.

Asked if he would have to bury that satisfaction in order to concentrate on tonight's game, Auld said that wasn't necessarily the case.

"I think you have to do it a little bit," said Auld. "If you are feeling good, you are seeing the puck well and playing with confidence, you want to keep that going.

"A big part of it has been how I have been trying to treat every practice like a game. In the situation I am in, you have to do that. And you also owe it to everybody to stay as ready as possible, and stay sharp so when you get the opportunity you can help the team to get the points they need."

7:08 p.m.
Here's my take on the lineup (based on the skate and the warm up):
Chara-Wideman (sg)Auld
Ference-Ward (bg)Thomas
Stuart-Hnidy Go Bruins!

7:19 p.m.
Asked if his start this evening was a reward for Alex Auld, B's head coach Claude Julien said, "It's a little bit...of his being rewarded, in a sense. But, you know, we've got lots of games in the next week...and it's an opportunity to rest Timmy, too.

"We want to put Timmy in the best possible position, as well, give him an opportunity to bounce back and win us some games."

7:24 p.m.

Seen in the stands -- a sign reading "I (heart) Hazel."

No doubt aimed at the host of the Buzz, Hazel Mae. Hazel and her Buzz crew members were a very nice addition to our travel party this time out. Thanks for lunch, guys!

I am heading over to the Running Recap. Go B's! JB




1 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
2 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
3 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
4 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
5 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
6 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
7 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
8 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


P. Bergeron 80 32 36 12 68
L. Eriksson 82 30 33 13 63
D. Krejci 72 17 46 4 63
B. Marchand 77 37 24 21 61
R. Spooner 80 13 36 -9 49
T. Krug 81 4 40 9 44
M. Beleskey 80 15 22 6 37
Z. Chara 80 9 28 12 37
J. Hayes 75 13 16 -12 29
D. Pastrnak 51 15 11 3 26
T. Rask 31 22 8 .915 2.56
J. Gustavsson 11 9 1 .908 2.72
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