The Lightning Insider - Game Day
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Ahhh, Buffalo. The Lightning like it so much here, we’re still here! Actually, our plane had some mechanical troubles last night so about 30 minutes after we got on following the game (and after some dinner), we headed to a small local hotel for some rest and an 11 a.m. flight to Montreal today.
It was a solid performance by Director of Team Services Ryan Belec to get a hotel lined up on such short notice. These things happen on the road – we once stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, Toronto Airport for the same reasons. At least it had a Denny’s in the lobby, and the hostess almost passed out when she saw Wendel Clark walk in the next morning.
In case you didn’t already hear about it, the Lightning had a surprise visitor in the locker room before the game last night as Former President Bill Clinton stopped by and addressed the team for about five minutes just before 6 p.m. Standing alongside Lightning owner Oren Koules, Clinton spoke to the team about growing up in Arkansas and not knowing anyone who played hockey, and how much he now enjoys seeing games live.
Clinton was a guest at the game of Sabres owner Thomas Golisano, who is a supporter of the Clinton Global Initiative. It turns out that Golisano was in Tampa with the Sabres last weekend and took the opportunity to invite Koules to have dinner with the former President before last night’s game. Clinton arrived early last night to address the Sabres and, ever the politician, he didn’t want to appear to play favorites so he visited the Lightning as well.
"Having the opportunity to hear from President Clinton was fantastic for every one of us in that locker room," said Koules, who enjoyed a private dinner with Clinton and Golisano following the pep talk. "We very much appreciate his including us in his visit."
Another interesting story that developed before last night’s game was the situation center Zenon Konopka found himself in. Called up from Norfolk earlier in the day as an emergency replacement for Adam Hall, Konopka didn’t land in Buffalo until 6:15 p.m. for the 7 p.m. start. As you might guess, his gear didn’t make it, so Konopka phoned a friend nearby in Ontario who drove some equipment down to the rink. Equipment managers Ray Thill, Rob Kennedy and Clay Roffer worked overtime to piece things together, and Konopka made it on the bench before the end of the first period.
Probably not the way Konopka wanted to make his Lightning debut, but sometimes you’ll take whatever you can get!
Anyhow, we’ll head to the hotel for lunch and a meeting when we arrive in Montreal, then the players will probably get a quick nap before heading to the rink for the game. Jamie Heward’s been called up for reinforcements on defense, and it’s unlikely Ryan Malone or Hall will be able to play tonight, either. You can probably expect close to the same lineup as last night, though Olaf Kolzig could get the nod in goal.