I think for a lot of Lightning fans, you weren't very well known. You showed up at training camp for the last six years and you'd get the occasional call-up. But you never got to play big minutes in an NHL game or any long stretches with Tampa Bay. You didn't have any late season or playoff heroics for the Lightning, but I looked forward to any time you did get the call and getting to watch you play.
I had the pleasure of meeting you on several occasions at the Last Call radio show after home games. You were always good to the fans that waited for your autograph or a picture and that is something that I always appreciate from players, especially guys like you that grind your way through professional hockey for those couple of chances in the NHL.
I actually remember very clearly watching your NHL debut in January of 2012. I was at home with my roommate watching the game on TV. I really didn't know who you were as I wasn't really following prospects at that time. You came out for your first shift and boy did you make an impression. First game, first shift, first shot, first goal. Not many players that have played in the NHL have that distinction.
Over the following seasons, I continued to keep an eye on you to see what you were doing in the minors. I continued to be disappointed that no roster spot ever came for you through training camp and you would get shuffled back down when injured players would return to the Bolts. But you were and still are the consummate professional. You earned the C on your jersey when the team moved it's AHL affiliation from Norfolk to Syracuse. For the past four seasons, you've been a leader for all of the young guys that have come through.
I have no doubt that your influence on the organization will live on through the young guys like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Vladislav Namestnikov, J.T. Brown, Alex Killorn, Slater Koekkoek, and many others. You led by example, you worked hard, and even from here in Tampa, I could see that. You were the heart and soul of the Crunch and I fear that the team will sorely miss your presence.
Thank you Mike for everything you've given to the organization. I watch with anticipation to see where you end up next. I wish you, your wife, and your entire family the best of luck. Know that where ever you go, where ever you end up, you've made a fan for life in me, and many others.