With the start of spring training - that February rite of passage in Major League Baseball that should be quite familiar to residents of the Tampa Bay area - it gives the image of warmth and light and the promise the long cold days of winter will soon relent. The rebirth of the sport, the renewal of life, the promise of things ahead..
When you think of football, you think of training camp opening for professional, collegiate and prep players in July through August. It's a grueling and cruel preparation for the 100-yard war that will be repeated -- weekly -- in the coming months of the fall.
And for hockey, in this non-traditional climate? Without it's coinciding a change in seasons? There is no grand, elongated training camp that stretches out for a month-plus through the transition from summer to fall. Nope, the Tampa Bay Lightning training camp is not officially set to begin until Friday, September 17th. Most teams training camps will not commence until around that time either.
It doesn't mean that the signs of the dormant NHL aren't starting to show themselves in the Tampa Bay area at the moment. Indeed, hockey may be a winter sport and we may still be in the dead of summer here, but the evidence of the later seasons are on display at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.
Current and former Bolts, paying for things out of their own pocket and without any team oversight, are going back to work and getting back in game shape on their own. Former Bolts Brad Richards, Filip Kuba and Andrej Meszaros were seen this morning along with Martin St. Louis and others... All rounded out by an off-ice appearance by on-the-mend Vincent Lecavalier. ( All of this information came by way of Mike Corcoran's sharing the info via Twitter. )
In the coming days, more players will make their presence known as current and former team members work out together on ice, scrimmage, and basically get ready for what lies ahead, wherever they will be playing: the National Hockey League's 2010-2011 season.
It may still seem like ages away, and it's not on the local media's radar whatsoever, but hockey is reappearing in Tampa Bay. We're lurching slowly back up to speed as a sport, and by this time next month we'll be on the verge of the beginnings of something special.