I don't know if anyone will read, but I got some stuff to share about my trip to Tampa Bay;
Sorry if this is long, but it's some Devils stuff that's different than "we need to get to 92 pointS) for the 15th time.
First off; I love this team. This is probably the only team I know that can rip my heart out in such obscene fashion and I'm looking forward to the next game. We probably won't make the playoffs this year, but as soon as the season is over I'll be looking forward to next. Anyway; here was my trip.
On friday, we drove to sunrise. I'm a student at the University of Miami, I had no classes Friday so my Devils-obsessed girlfriend (I'm too lucky) wanted to head up early to see if we could catch the team walking in. We didn't, but that was fine. The atmosphere in Sunrise was similar to a Devils pre-season game against the rangers. The jerseys were about a fifty-fifty split, but nobody truly seemed to care what was going on. We watched practice, Henrique winked at my girlfriend (sending her over the moon), and we got to our seats. We sat in row 3 above the goal-line that the Devils defend twice -- won't make that mistake again in Florida. If the puck wasn't in our end, we literally saw nothing. There were loud "Lets Go Devils" chants almost the entire time, all the way up to the (disappointing) EN goal. The stadium blows; but the worst part about it is leaving. We had a 4-hour drive to Tampa in front of us, and we had to sit in a single-lane road to leave the stadium for what lasted at least an hour. Brutal.
We stayed at the Marriott in Tampa, walking distance to the Forum, because we were told that was where most teams stayed. Well, we're eating breakfast, and who do I see? Chico, two tables down. I didn't want to interrupt his brunch, so after I see he and another man with his back turned get up, I walk over with my girlfriend and introduce ourselves. Who turns around next to chico? Bobby freakin Holik. Chico talks to us for.. oh, maybe 30 minutes. Where are we from, what we thought about the game, how my girlfriend got into hockey, how interesting that she's a Brazilian who's a diehard fan, etc. Holik starts jokingly flirting with her; she says that she's seen plenty of highlights from all of the old games we watched, and said how I have a poster of Holik in my basement. He says "I'm much more handsome now than I was back then", and Chico interrupts him and says "Oh, Bob, you were never handsome". It was incredible.
After lunch, we walked around the hotel, laid at the pool for a while and then walked over to the Forum in hopes to catch the team as they were walking in. Steve Cango sees us walking and asks if we need help finding something. He says that he doesn't know where the team is walking from or where they walk to, but leads us to someone who might now. He was a really friendly guy. A few minutes later, we see Chico walking across the street. He recognizes us and waves us over, couldn't be a more incredible person. He cracks a few jokes about Bobby flirting with my girlfriend, says how great of a guy Holik was and how he has a house down south. He then says, "no, the team is staying at the Westin across the bridge. If you walk over quickly, you might catch a few of them.".
So, we walk across the bridge, and we see a guy in a suit and blonde hair walking towards us. Without skipping a beat, my girlfriend yells "You playing tonight Jacob?!" He nods and signs her jersey. So we keep walking (half of the players walk from the hotel to the stadium, the other half take the bus) and who do we see? Travis Zajac. He seees two fans walking towards him, takes out his headphones and greets us with handshakes. Incredible, incredible guy. Seriously, he was talkative, nice, and signed her jersey. We walk over the bridge towards the hotel and see two suits walking towards us. She starts freaking out once she realizes it's Henrique (typically I'd be jealous, but, to be fair, I'd leave her for Henrique too). He and Fayne couldn't have been nicer; both were very serious and ready for the game but stopped to take photos with my girlfriend, even joked around together while posing for the picture and kept elbowing eachother, and both signed for us. Just in case we were going to be able to get autographs, my girlfriend (an architecture major so, naturally, awesome at photoshop) makes an 11x17 with Henrique celebrating the rangers goal with the caption "Henrique: It's Over!". They both spent five minutes looking at the photo, Fayne made fun of Kovy's face in it, Henrique joked about his beard, and we parted ways.
After that, we waited in front of the Westin with a larger group of fans for autographs. A solid 10 guys walked over to us and signed autos; I got to congratulate Rutuu on his baby and he seemed to appreciate it, Jagr signed for a solid 20 minutes, Ryder signed (he was dressed like he legitimately left a Vogue photoshoot). Everyone was awesome and waved and talked to fans except, oddly enough, Clowe. He kept his head down and walked to the bus, didn't acknowledge the fans telling him good luck or shouting positive things towards him. I get it if you don't want to sign, but it takes zero effort to wave. He even ignored the 9 year old waiting near the bus, just walked straight past her. Lost a little respect for him after that.
The game needs no discussion; though I must admit that the game-day production of the Lightning is the best I've ever seen. I've been to away games in philly, calgary, toronto, new york, florida, and tampa and by FAR the best game day experience was Tampa. If you're there before the doors open, you can scan your ticket and wait at this outdoor patio/bar area where you're already past security and just walk in when the doors open, to help eliminate queues outside. The jumbotron is MASSIVE, really beautiful with a really quality image. The guy who posted the "selfie" with Jagr was sitting two rows in front of me. Also, the fans were some of the nicest I've ever seen. We were decked in Devils gear, and after the game ALL I heard was "you got robbed on that first goal", "this is just payback for always owning us in the playoffs", etc etc. Also, they have this thing inside that shoots actual lightning. It's defeaning but holy crap is it cool. I was surprised at how packed the place was and how knowledgable the fans were; definitely not a Florida stereotype.
After the game, we walked back and got food at the hotel bar. I see Steve and Matt Laughlin and decide to walk up to introduce myself; they open up their "circle" and allow my girlfriend and I to drink and talk with them for a solid hour. Most of the people clear out, and the "circle" has now turned into myself, my girlfriend, some incredibly nice Devils fans, and this guy named Kevin. He hadn't introduced himself yet, and he says to me, "I haven't met you yet, by the way. I'm Kevin Clarke". I ask, shyly, "Kevin Clarke as in.... PSE&G POWER PLAYYYYYYYY"? and he starts laughing hysterically and says that yes, that's him. He tells us a bunch of awesome stories; about how halfway through the season a few years back, Zach got upset and told him to pronounce it "Par-ee-say" instead of "Par-ee-see", about how Chico is always late to meetings and TV time because he talks to fans too much, about how at the Devils/Rangers ECF game 6 his goal announcement came too late because he was screaming and celebrating, and how he's never seen a stadium erupt quite like that. It was really, really awesome. Anyway, we're having drinks-on-drinks-on-drinks, and I start drunkenly telling him about how my buddy and I used to always laugh hysterically when he'd say "Doctor Murray Seltzer". He gets the idea of calling my buddy up and reciting it into the phone to make my friend laugh, so we did. It was really, really awesome.
Anyway, that was my Devils trip. They went 0-2, but damn it was fun.
Here's the henrique thing