Rick Peckham and "wingers" Dave Andreychuk and Phil Esposito at Chili's Summer Tour (Photo Credit: Meredith Qualls)
Tampa Bay: Get your NHL fix with Lightning's Chili's Summer Tour
Last night marked the beginning of the Chili's Summer Tour, a fan event series with dates through September, featuring hockey talk, giveaways, Lightning girls, and Thunderbug--perhaps the hockey stimulation you need to get you through the long, hot summer.
Overall, last night was a quiet, and rather low turn out, a different feel than the energy-charged Lightning Unplugged events that took place last season. There were more people who stumbled upon the event by coincedence at dinner time, rather than fans who showed up for the event. Regardless, if you're a diehard, it's definitely a good chance to get an autograph and meet some of your favorites.
Fans arrived and waited for the evening's feature, the live broadcast of AM 1250 WHZ's Lightning Hockey Night, hosted by Rick Peckham, with guests Dave Andreychuk and [beloved] Phil Esposito. If you didn't catch the broadcast live, Lightning Hockey Night included a roundtable discussion of the Stanley Cup, the new management, the upcoming draft, and the future of the team. (Honestly, if you're interested in actually hearing the discussion, you'd be better off staying home and tuning in.)
The pair discussed the "obvious good feeling" about the new management, evidencing confidence in both Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher. Esposito added that he was his attention was swayed when he heard that Detroit Red Wing's Head Coach Mike Babcock, who he deemed a "no nonsense guy," was a fan of Boucher.
Discussing the draft, the pair reflected on Victor Hedman, last year's number two overall draft pick. Esposito suggested that a good approach in the coming season could include the possibility of moving younger players down to the minor leagues (just a comment, though). The other draft anticipation is finding the bottom six forwards, to which Andreychuk noted, "The key is the other guys you have surrounding [the star players], how you fill the gap around the key players." According to Andreychuk, it's not about the big names as much as it is about getting consistent, character players who can keep the game going.
Esposito, who made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks, was also excited about the Blackhawk's Stanley Cup win, saying that "the transition of the Chicago Blackhawks was fabulous." Andreychuk agreed, saying that the Blackhawks were undoubtedly "the most talented team." The pair agreed that Chicago was the clear winner from the outset, and attributed Philadelphia's failure to the lack of a high-performing second line.
Andreychuk regressed and discussed the character of the team in 2004, the year the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Andreychuk said that in 2004, the team was different, and that they never had the same team again. That year, they were out to prove themselves, to show the non-believers that a team in the South could win. Which, of course, they did.
The second half of the show brought in former Lightning Chris Dingman, who emphasized his stunning (or rather, unimpressive) number of career goals, as compared with Andreychuk and Esposito, noting to Peckham that he was glad someone was present with fewer goals than he.
The Chili's Summer Tour is a good event if your mouth is watering for some Lightning interaction, or if you're experiencing post-season depression, and are looking for any facet of hockey in your life. The next tour stop is Wednesday, June 23, at 7250 US 19 N, Pinellas Park from 6-8 p.m. Check out the full schedule here.
For more photos from the event, check out my post over at Loving the Lightning.