Monday, September 15, 2008

Quit your whining

Down here in Humidity Bay, where the surprising Tampa Bay Rays have become the top dogs of the local sports scene (sorry, Bucs fans), it would be easy to forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning will open its 2008-09 training camp tomorrow.

Despite the sale of the team, a trade of a popular player and an overabundance of new faces, the biggest question coming into camp -- among fans, hounds and others -- is why did the team move its camp to the St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa from the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.

If you believe the team, and I have no reason not to, it was simply because the Tampa location offered better facilities, namely a world-class weight-training room, and better logistics, primarily its location to hotels the team uses.

Following that reasoning, the move is a no-brainer.

To some fans and hounds/dealers, though, the move is seen as a bid to limit access to players. We all love autographs, even if some do it for financial reasons, and it's common knowledge that getting players to sign in Brandon was pretty easy. To me, thinking that move was meant to limit access is a big steaming pile of hooey.

Though I'm unwilling to share all of my hockey-hounding secrets (and, really, folks, I've shared plenty over the past few seasons), I look forward to having camp in Tampa. From a purely economical standpoint, it's cheaper for me to drive to Tampa than Brandon. Heck, even the parking is free.

Getting players to sign is all about access and putting yourself in the right position at the right time. After spending the past two seasons hounding in and around the St. Pete Times Forum, I'm pretty certain I won't go home empty-handed on any of the three days (Tuesday through Thursday) I'll be at camp. If I do, however, it'll be my fault, not the Lightning's.

Besides, it's about the hockey. Who here doesn't want to watch Steven Stamkos show why Tampa Bay picked him first overall? How about the new guys -- Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Radim Vrbata and Matt Carle, among them? And, if that wasn't enough, the Penguins and Rangers are in town next week.

For what it's worth, players may sign as they come off the ice following the training camp practices/scrimmages. That alone discredits any conspiracy theories being spouted by some of Humidity Bay's hockey genuises. Sure, people may now have to make an extra effort to get an autograph, but nothing good comes easy.

If you want Stamkos' autograph, or Vinny's, Marty's and Ollie's, well, then, go out and earn it. Do your homework, put in the time and, if necessary, sweat a little. It's all about effort. Sit back and you lose. Make it, however, and you'll be rewarded.

But, if you can't make it to weekday events (I'm thankful my work schedule and vacation time allows for it), the team will hold its annual FanFest on Sunday, where players will sign after their scrimmages. Granted, the event will draw a crowd, and the resulting long lines, to the St. Pete Times Forum. That, my friends, doesn't sound too productive to me.

Bottom line, folks: If you want your autographs, you should do whatever is necessary to make it happen. If you can't, then, please accept my sympathies. If you won't, however, quit your whining.

Harsh? Yes. The truth? That, too. It's your call. Put up or shut up.


Chris McGonnell said...

The Tampa Bay Lightning? Humidity? Man, you Floridians have to have *every* sport, even the cool, blue North's very own favorite pastime!

As autumn approaches and the air turns crisp up here, Jim Schoenfeld laughs at the likes of Florida, Georgia and Arizona fielding NHL teams. "And these guys think *we* got brain damage, playing wthout helmets? Southern-fried hockey -- now that's brain damage."

And there's fresh cider up here, too.


Puckhound said...

A glass of cider sounds good, doesn't it?

How's it going, Cuz?

Chris McGonnell said...

Quite good, your Uncle Tom has been exercising with a walker, but spends the sunny days sitting outdoors in a wheelchair. His spirits are up, and Jim and I visit him regularly. Bought him a hi-def TV for his room, and watched the Bills-Jags game there.

And the cider's delicious.