Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mike Smith gets to see his girlfriend ski in the Olympics
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mike Smith said he has "a lot of respect" for coach Rick Tocchet, "and the whole Lightning organization," for allowing him to fly to Vancouver to watch girlfriend, Brigitte Acton, ski for Canada in the Olympics.
Acton, 24, skis in today's women's slalom.
"It's a big deal for me and my girlfriend and her whole family that I can be out here," Smith said Friday morning. "She's supported what I do for most of my career. It's great I can support her."
Smith certainly timed it well. By flying out Thursday night, he missed Friday's two-a-day workouts. He flies back to Tampa on Saturday, when he will miss an off-ice workout. Smith said he asked Tocchet about flying out and "left it up to him. I totally understand the situation. I have a great deal of respect for him for letting me go."
"It's a once in a lifetime for his girlfriend, and for a day it's a great thing for him to see," Tocchet said. "It's a dream for him."
Tocchet said it is important for him to manage people and not just players.
"I try to put myself in positions when I played," he said. "Coaching is just not X's and O's. It's part of it. But psychology and managing people is huge. You try to manage it how i would want a coach to manage me. I have no problem with it."
"I saw her last year make one run in a World Cup race," Smith said. "I was more nervous than I was playing goalie because it's out of my control. It's just very exciting to be here and support her."
Other stuff: Team athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said center Zenon Konopka (back) is "progressing slowly." It is still unclear if he will be ready for Tuesday's game with the Flyers. ... New assistant coach Jim Johnson was not on the ice for the morning practice session. ... Tampa Bay will practice again later this afternoon. The two-a-day process (as well as Saturday's off-ice workout day) was a way to break up the monotony of daily practices without a game. "It's like a mini training camp," Tocchet said. "But you have to be careful. You want to get a lot of work in but you can't do everything. I want to do some specialty teams but you don't want these guys at the rink for three hours. ... To break it up, instead of throwing five practices at these guys and skating the hell out of them. You have to be a little smart about it too."