Feels like just yesterday we were in Clearwater trying to narrow 100 or so players at tryouts to fill out a roster and get ready for our first tournament in Indiana. It is baffling that I am writing a recap on year one of the Fr/So EDP team. But as we all know, time flies when you’re having fun. That is exactly what it was. It really was a great year. I cannot say that enough.
Before we get into a full recap of the year. There’s something we definitely need to talk about. I certainly don’t want to sugar coat or make it sound like I’m just trying to gas up the parents, but I have to thank them. I have to thank the parents because they took a chance on us from the beginning. They liked what they saw in our program when others were hesitant.
December came up on us fast and that meant it was time for our first tournament, so we left Tampa and headed to South Bend, Indiana aka Notre Dame. I’ll be honest. Once we got to Indiana, I had to carry around a roster sheet around with me (hahaha) because as we know, hockey is a helmet sport and it took me a couple of hours to identify everyone without their bucket on. I knew all the names I just couldn’t put all the names to a face just yet. So, after a nice trip to Golden Corral, where the boys literally almost put the place out of business with all the food they ate, I had a good feel for who everyone was after that.
Overall, going to Notre Dame was a great experience for the boys and for the team in general. Some of them had never been that far away from home before let alone go that many days in a row without seeing their parents. It was a good test for the rest of the year to come and for some, hopefully, a taste of what the next 3-4 years would be like. They did great!
In Indiana, we got a wonderful tour of the Notre Dame campus. It is a beautiful campus, to say the least. We got lucky actually, the school was getting ready to set up for the NHL’s Winter Classic: Bruins v Blackhawks. So, we were able to see the trucks going in and on the football field.
The team would practice and practice hard until their next tourney which wouldn’t be until April, but they did assist the Steinbrenner Warriors to get ready for the State and National Championships.
When April came along, the boys made their way to the Windy City. After facing fierce competition in Indy, Coach Adam Hall and his team had to get ready for another flurry of talent in the Chicago area. The boys held their own and were rewarded by spending Easter Sunday at one of America’s most beloved ballparks, Wrigley Field!
After two tournaments, the Fr/So EDP team was still looking to get their first win of the year. Well with the fresh legs we added they didn’t just win a game. They got all the way to the championship game and brought home silver for the first piece of hardware in the program’s history.
Our new additions meshed majestically with our core group. I’ve always got faith in our guys, but it would only be human to be weary of how they would play with only one or two practices before playing together. I was blown away by the immediate success.
these kids got the golden treatment on this particular trip. The boys got an all-access, VIP tour of Michigan State University, the alma later of head coach, Adam Hall.
Next up on the list of VIP tours, another old stopping ground of Coach Hall. Plymouth, Michigan. The home of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Fun fact. Adam Hall was a member of the inaugural USANTDP team back in 1996 where he was also the team’s captain!
You always save the best for last, not only did the boys get to play a game at Yost Ice Arena, the home of the University of Michigan Wolverines. Prior to game time, the boys got ANOTHER all access, VIP tour of the UM Hockey locker room and facilities. Folks, these locker room tours are not something you just get. There isn’t some number you call that magically gets you in these facilities. We are the Tampa Bay Lightning and when we call, people move mountains for us. It’s a luxury we are blessed to have and share with our players.
As we look to wrap up the season and a wonderful year. The last trip was going to be one to remember so we took the boys on a 13-day trip that would start in Buffalo and end in Boston
Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)
For starters, it was freezing in Buffalo. In June. And by freezing, I mean it was like 50-60 degrees. But for us Floridian’s anything under 90 degrees and past the month of April is pretty much winter. Buffalo was a fun place and by far had the nicest people of any city we traveled to this year. Also, in Buffalo, we had a very special guest with us, Cindy Eccles, who is a phenomenal photographer. I like to think that I do a decent job at taking pictures or videos to update everyone on the EDP, Lightning Made, and LHSHL twitter.
Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)
Cindy blows it out of the water. She is a magician when it comes to photography and especially shooting hockey. I encourage you all to visit the LHSHL website to view her work!
The day before we took off for Boston, we took the boys to Niagara Falls. I can’t speak for everyone but seeing the falls for the first time is something I will never forget. You can see it in pictures, sure. But you really have no idea how massive it is until you are standing inches away from it.
We are constantly looking for team bonding/team activities. So instead of flying to Boston, we chartered our own private bus and took the boys on a glorious seven-hour bus ride to The Bay State. There is no better way to bond with your teammates or grow a friendship like being confined inside a moving object for just about a full day!
While in Boston, we introduced the boys to something called “pizza”. Believe it or not, the pizza you find in Florida is a mere imitation of what you see in Boston. It got to the point where I am sure the boys will more than likely refrain from eating pizza for the remainder of 2019 hahaha. In all seriousness, we did do something special with the team while there, we practiced three days in a row and one of those practices was held at Warrior Ice Arena. The somewhat brand-new training facility of the six-time Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. So, let’s go ahead and add that to the list of experiences the kids (and for me) will never forget.
Safe to say this was an amazing year. These kids now have a Rolodex of memories that they will carry with them for life. If you can’t tell yet, I am huge on making memories and memorable moments. I had an awesome childhood and For EDP this year, Tom and I literally worked day and night. Just about every single weekend and just about every single holiday haha. Seriously, when we spoke on Christmas day, our conversation started with, “Hey did you see this.” But we love what we do and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
On behalf of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jay Feaster, Tom Garavaglia, Head Coach Adam Hall, and I would just like thank all the players for all their hard work, effort, and dedication for the last 11 months and an even larger thank you to the parents. None of this would have been possible without your support this year and that truly means the world to us.
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