I don’t know if was my pitiful pun on the word wonderful (thunderful) or that no one else applied for the Tampa Bay Lightning Social Media Reporter for a day contest but at the end of the day I couldn’t have been happier to be selected. Okay, let me back track—on July 6th the Tampa Bay Lightning organization opened up a last minute contest for a few lucky fans to act as social media reporters for about an hour at the development camp in Brandon. The catch was that the winners would be selected by 11:59 pm that night and that they had to report around 12:30 pm the next morning for the event they would be covering. In order to enter there was no age requirement, the mini application only asked for a full name, email address, Twitter account name, and why the applicant would be the best choice to express the voice of Lightning fans. If selected the winners would attend a V.I.P. event with four prospects from the camp including a meet & greet with autographs in addition to a Q&A session between the fans and the boys.
After a brutal journey from St. Petersburg to Brandon at an unholy hour (I’m 17 and it’s summer, 10am seems cruel to me!) I arrived at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum at the nick of time to check in to the event. Unfortunately I had just missed team Hedman’s victory in the 3-on-3 tournament however after driving around looking for a parking space for what felt like ages I was inadvertently greeted by who I would later learn to be prospect Brian Hart milling around by the nearest open space.
Any who, after checking in the select group of what I’d estimate to be not much more than 30 people, we were escorted upstairs to a skybox type room on the second floor of the complex. Inside the large room were 3-4 rows of yellow chairs facing and in close proximity to two adjoined foldable tables with four seats behind them. I snagged one of the last seats in the front row right in front of where superstar prospect J.T. Brown would be seated and embarked on my experimental social media reporting. We were encouraged to utilize all of the most popular social media outlets (but mainly Twitter) to relay information from the outing to fans with the hashtag #BoltsSocial which would be easily searchable and was even a Twitter trend briefly. Being the thoughtful young lady that I am I encouraged fans who couldn’t attend to send me their questions that I would ask at the Q&A, I only received one which I did ask but it’s the thought that counts, right? I’m not taking full credit for that though, another attendee granted access via the contest asked for questions too but I was by far the most active on Twitter and Instagram that day.
The prospects in attendance were by far an extremely talented and extremely sweet group of guys, the bunch consisted of J.T. Brown, Slater Koekkoek, Vladislav Namestnikov, and the for mentioned parking attendant Brian Hart (just kidding). Most of the tweets and Instagram likes I received were directed at the apparent next heartthrob Namestnikov (watch out Steven Stamkos!) but I was really impressed by all the guys. Questions received in Q&A had to do with Brown’s NHL hazing (he had to skate laps by himself) to what inspired them to dream of the big leagues (to which Namestnikov replied to with a very satirical response, “my dad and uncle played hockey, so I kind of had no choice.” Poor Hart probably received the least amount of attention but that’s life when you’re the new kid on the block and not from a hockey dynasty like Koekkoek, he was such a good sport about it. The baby bolts seemed to be really enjoying playing hockey somewhere hot enough where ice should not exist, it’s different for them and might take a little adjustment but they seem to enjoy it nonetheless.
After the brief Q&A fans were able to proceed through an orderly line at the tables for autographs and pictures. To tell the truth I am personally a bit shy and again a 17 year old girl (one who happens to go weak in the knees and tight lipped when face-to-face with any attractive male such those in my own age range) so keep in mind so my lack of things to say and the guts to say them were already running low and then further decreased by the fact that I was shuffled first to the tables. Seeing as I hadn’t been aware that it would also be an autograph signing I came empty handed so each player signed a TBL small blank placard while I requested a photo with each. Consequently I’m a miserable excuse for a photographer which lead me through the line once more to retake photos with Namestnikov and Koekkoek (okay in his case maybe I just wanted to say something more audible and less stupid then whatever it was that I had muttered previously), I wasn’t alone though as attendee’s with more than one object to be autographed went through again as well.
All in all although it was a short outing that lasted little less than an hour it was actually very worth the 80 minute drive. In my case as a social media reporter I’m not sure what spurred the Lightning to create such a contest for fans, I speculate they needed to fill seats and it was surely a ploy to boost their Twitter follows. As far as the season ticket holders in attendance though I can assure you that this was just one of the perks of owning season tickets for the TBL. I can say after my family being previous season ticket owners to other Tampa Bay teams that I genuinely can’t think of any other organization that makes such a conscious effort to connect their most avid fans with the franchise and it’s players as much as the Lightning do. Not only is it a reward for the fans but I truly believe it’s one for the players as well, and like I’ve said in previous articles social media is merely an assortment of thread sewing us all together. Because of social media reporters like myself, fans who can’t obtain season tickets or simply couldn’t fit the session into their schedules could keep in the know with what was going on with their favorite prospects. In my opinion, social media reporting for the Tampa Bay Lightning is something I believe we the fans will be witnessing and utilizing a lot more. Over all I believe social media is a very thunderful idea.
Oh, and in case you were wondering after Koekkoek and I debated whether or not Space Mountain is actually a ride at Disney World it was determined that it is and in fact his favorite.
Tampa Bay Lightning franchise social media:
The prospects that attended on Twitter!
J.T. Brown: @JTBrown23
Slater Koekkoek: @SKoekkoek
Brian Hart: @39Hart
Vladislav Namestnikov: @Vladdy18
To see my updates and Instagram photo’s along with others you can visit my Twitter and Instagram @LibertyOneill or search #BoltsSocial on either outlet