The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about some of the people you might run into in the press box.
We’ve previously discussed that the press box is a professional work environment, established for the sake of working media covering the team. But they’re not the only ones who utilize the cozy confines. Broadcasters, scouts, personnel from other teams, and sometimes scratched players (we’ll talk about them in an upcoming column, I promise) are all up there, doing what they do. And what makes the confines so cozy is that it’s not very spacious. That means if you’re up there, you’re going to cross paths with everybody else up there.
I’ve seen Doc Emerick, Brett Hull, Kevin Weeks, Denis Potvin, Jeremy Roenick and Gary Bettman among others up there. Usually the A-listiness of the hockey celebs increase the deeper you run into the playoffs. Of course, the people you see on a regular basis are more familiar, and thus more likely to rub elbows.
There’s a small common area where the restrooms are located and snacks are served (not in the same room, you psychos) with a bunch of televisions showing a variety of other games. It’s a really good place to refresh yourself, grab a bite and pretend to be interested in what’s on TV while trying to eavesdrop on (and hopefully be invited into) conversations with people far more interesting than I am. At least, that’s what I do.
Here, in no particular order are my four favorite Amalie Arena press box denizens (non-fellow writers division).
- Scotty Bowman - Sometimes the word legendary is a woefully inadequate descriptor for a person and their accomplishments. Such is the case with Scotty Bowman. 1,244 regular season wins, 223 Stanely Cup playoff victories (both NHL records) and nine Stanley Cups as a coach. I tell my non-hockey friends that he’s the hockey equivalent of Casey Stengel or Vince Lombardi. Those people aren’t sports fans at all so the analogy is completely lost on them. I don’t know why they’re my friends. Anyway, Scotty is the Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Blackhawks and lives in Sarasota. He’s at almost every Lightning home game and we once had a conversation about what a nightmare traffic on Fruitville Road can be.
- Phil Esposito - As a Lightning fan, I feel like I should thank him every time I see him for having faith in whatever long con he pulled on the NHL to give us hockey in Tampa Bay that started in a barn and produced a Stanley Cup less than 20 years later. Aside from that, there’s his wild, mostly-unfiltered color commentary on Lightning home game radio broadcasts. And if you think that’s entertaining, you should hear his opinions when he knows he’s not behind a microphone.
- Dave Mishkin - The extremely passionate radio play-by-play man is a soft-spoken individual whose vocal cords are somehow not torn to shreds when he’s not “on”. He’s also extremely intelligent with an encyclopedic knowledge of the game and its history. Still, I’d love to see him order breakfast at McDonald’s in game mode: “Egg McMuffin, HASH BROWNS and OOOOOOOOOOOOOOORange juice!!”
- Rick Peckham - A long, long time ago, when I was “just” a fan, I was at a game with friends. We had parked in what was an unpaved grass lot behind the garage and we came out of the arena to find our battery had died. We put up the hood in the hope that someone would eventually show up and help us out. Finally, someone offered us a jump. It was Rick Peckham. I’ve been a fan ever since, justified because he’s a genuinely nice person and also very funny.