(crossposted at Loving the Lightning)
Thursday night the Lightning received another shower of support from their local fan base. Roughly 200 people came out for this season's third Lightning Unplugged event, featuring Kurtis Foster, Steve Downie, and Vincent Lecavalier.
If you suspected that fans had lost hope in recent weeks after the Lightning's losing-steak against the Bruins, Islanders, and Rangers, think again. While changes surge on and off the ice, Lightning fans remain consistent, and crammed into the Tilted Kilt to show their love for the the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The first question went to Foster, introduced as "the league leader in breaking glass." Fans wanted to know how much money Foster had spent on broken glass repair bills, referring to Foster's glass-breaking habit. Foster replied, laughing, that he hadn't had to pay, though he mentioned he had been given a fake bill as a practical joke.
Over the Olympic break, Foster and Vinny spent time on the beach, Foster traveling south to Miami, and Vinny spending time with Brad Richards. Downie, on the other hand, returned home to Canada. When asked about the cold, he said, "I don't like it."
Regarding not making the Olympics, Vinny replied, "It was tough. I worked out really hard this summer. Production-wise I wasn't where I wanted to be."
All three, despite their Canadian heritage, agreed that they were happy for teammate Ryan Malone's success with Team USA during the Olympics. Downie said, "I'm happy for him." Foster agreed, though admitting he was rooting for Team Finland. The crowd, avid supporters of Team USA, attributed Canada's loss to leaving Vinny and Marty off the roster.
Despite Lecavalier's low performance this season, fans still sought advice from the team's captain. One 7-year-old asked for Vinny's advice on becoming a hockey player:
"First," Vinny replied, "play as much as you can. Then practice. Practice every day as much as you can."
And Vinny speaks from his own experience. He began skating at the age of 2 1/2, and played in his first league at the age of 4.
Questions regarding the NHL: Which player do you absolutely hate and say, "I'm gonna fight that guy?" Vinny admitted to particularly disliking Sean Avery (and all three agreed). Foster added that from his time in the western conference, he really hated Alex Burrows.
The toughest goalie in the league? Foster answered that the Flame's goalie, Miikka Kiprusoff (better known as "Kipper") was a tough match, while Vinny named Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. Toughest arena to play in? Washington, because of the fans, Chicago, because of the talent, and Montreal, because of the intimdating arena. Foster said (referring to Montreal), "It feels like they're right on top of you."
Which team do they dislike the most? Foster named Washington, Vinny agreed and added Montreal. Downie agreed and included the Maple Leafs, but added, "I don't really think I like any."
There were a couple of questions regarding the team and coaching. One fan asked why line change-ups are so frequent. Downie, the first to speak up, said, "I'm confused too." Vinny, not voicing any dissent, offered explanation for shifting the lines, saying, "Line change-ups are about trying to find the perfect combination. Sometimes you're hot for a few games, and then you go cold. That's when you try to change it up."
The players didn't elaborate on the recent coaching changes. On the subject of the departure of Wes Walz, Vinny said, "You never want to see someone you work with leave." Vinny also noted that he didn't know much about new assistant coach Jim Johnson, though he was confident in his [Johnson's] experience.
And if they could be coach for a day? Vinny danced around the question, saying "First, nobody's perfect (including the coach and the players). Things happen so quick. You have to stick to the system. You have to keep building the system and growth." Downie said if he had the chance, he would change the power play, and Foster said that if he were coach, he would create more line stability. He would give the players more time to create chemistry on the lines.
Speaking of lines, who would Foster play with if he could choose? Foster's ideal line would be to play with Vinny and Marty. Downie, on the other hand, would be on a line with Konopka, though he laughed that the shifts would only be five seconds long.
Big personal news for many of the players on the topic of babies. Vinny lit up when asked about his coming baby, saying, "It's gonna be a great moment. I want the baby to come out. I'm excited. Really, really excited."
There's news besides Vinny--Foster, Malone, and Alex Tanguay are also expecting children at the same time, all within two weeks of one another.
Finally, fans always want to play favorites. Favorite player? Vinny immediately answered, "Marty. We've been together for 8 or 9 years. I love him." Downie named Marty as well, and added, "Stammers is not my favorite. He's more of a boyfriend." Foster didn't give a name, but said, "Coming to a new team, I didn't know what to expect. We have a lot of laughs, and a lot of fun."
Best-dressed player? All three players raised deer-in-the-headlights looks when asked about style. Foster wasn't sure, but noted that Smith's shoes were too high, and Hedman's pants too tight.
The three were confident and ready to get back into the game, saying that they feel refreshed and recharged, and ready to fight for the playoffs.