I usually don’t go about writing on my personal experiences on the website. For those of you that read my writings, you know my stuff is usually highly professional, with the possibility of some implied humor. During the season, I tend to stick with recaps and analysis of hockey. However, I attended yesterday’s (1/13) Lightning Fan Fest at the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night and was treated with a pleasant surprise. I was able to receive autographs from players Eric Brewer, Keith Aulie, Teddy Purcell, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. With each autograph, I felt a genuine care from the player. It was as if the player was, for that moment, only thinking of satisfying me. I watched the players autograph various Lightning items, and they all had a caring face on display. I was not the only one who received that warm feeling. Each player dedicated the thirty to forty seconds in which the fan was handing items to autographs to making that one fan happy. They could have been arrogant; after all, they are some of the best players in the world earning millions of dollars each year (which should be well known by now.) But each player was genuinely interested in each fan as he or she stepped up for an autograph.
The first player I met with was Eric Brewer. He greeted me, asked how I was doing. I replied in kind, and asked the same of him. He said he was feeling great about being back. Seated next to him was Keith Aulie. The first thing that popped into my mind was the big hits and fights that Auile seems to always get involved in per game. I told him how excited I was to have the game returning to the ice. I told him it was about time, and Aulie gave a stark smirk and responded “It’s about time for us too.” I wished him good luck, and he gave me his gratitude. Hard to say I expected such a human element from a guy as tough as Aulie. Not to mention he and Brewer were huge.
Next was Teddy Purcell, but I’ll save that experience for last. Marc-Andre Bergeron was seated next to Purcell. I felt a humble vibe from the small defenseman. He didn’t say much, just a simple but sharp smile plus a nod. That immediately gave away that he is in fact from the French-speaking Quebec. But just his smile, and the time he took to nicely autograph my Go Bolts poster was special. It’s something that I don’t really notice in other professional sports. The most heartfelt moment of the day for me however was my moment with Teddy Purcell. As I handed him my poster, I asked him a question: “Hey Teddy, do you have to practice your autograph back at home?” I thought the question was comical, and so did he. He immediately broke into a laugh, and answered:
Well, the team gave us a set of 500 index cards once. I used to practice when I was a kid dreaming of being in the NHL. -Teddy Purcell
Whether any of that was truth, or just a joke, it showed the true human element in him. I didn’t feel as if I was speaking to a pro hockey player; it seemed as if Teddy was a peer that I would speak to on a daily basis. This speaks to the quality of the Lightning organization. A good organization does not surround just skill on the ice; it also includes personality and community relationships. This is the reason why Lightning fans are so close the the team. This is why the Lightning organization will become a world-class organization.