Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's hectic day in the snow

BOSTON — To say Ryan Belec's Saturday was a bit hectic was like saying the Northeast got a bit of snow.

The Lightning's director of team services — that is, the guy who handles all the travel arrangements — had contingencies built around contingencies as Tampa Bay waited to see if its game with the Bruins at TD Garden would be played.

When at 2:45 p.m. word came from the league the game was postponed, a casualty of a storm that dropped about 25 inches of snow Friday night and Saturday, Belec finally could focus on one plan: getting the team to New York for tonight's game with the Rangers.

"It was hectic," Belec said. "A lot of communicating with the hotel in Boston, the hotel in New York, our airline, the bus company; just a lot of phone calls and emails and text messages."

With Boston's Logan Airport closed, the Lightning at 4 p.m. began a five and a half-hour bus trip to Manhattan amid speculation the game with the Bruins would be rescheduled for April 25, which would make it the second-to-last game of the season.

"Although both clubs and the assigned on-ice officials are in Boston, travel conditions remain too hazardous for fans, security personnel and TD Garden staff to get to the arena," the league said in a statement.

"Probably the right call," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "And the safest one, too."

• • •

Not that the Lightning wasted the day. At 9:45 a.m., with the snow still flying and wind still howling, the team took a bus to TD Garden for a morning skate.

The way coach Guy Boucher figured it, Tampa Bay didn't skate Friday. And because at the time the Bruins game was still on, it would not skate before facing the Rangers, as that game would be the second of a back-to-back.

"I like the hotel," Boucher said. "But when you're enclosed like that, everybody is breathing the same air. So to see some hockey, feel some hockey, guys want to get on (the ice)."

But as the bus tried to make a left turn onto a narrow, unplowed street, forward motion stopped. Then snowballs hit the driver's window as it appeared the thrower was upset the bus had destroyed a neat pile of snow removed from the sidewalk.

But driver Jason Stirk, 29, of Boston, said the thrower wanted to get his attention.

"He wanted to tell me I had some room to back up," Stirk said.

Stirk did that, and after reaching a plowed main road, he picked up a police escort to the arena.

"Not too bad," Stirk said of the trip. "(That corner) was the only thing I was worried about."

• • •

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he had no input into the league's decision to postpone the game. And though he said he's "not crazy" about when the game might be played — it would be the second game of a back-to-back — he added, "There's nothing you can do about it, so there's no sense worrying."

Saturday's postponement might even help Tampa Bay in that it won't face the Rangers tonight as part of a back-to-back.

"And even if we played (in Boston), there wouldn't be any people there," Hedman said.

"It's unfortunate," center Nate Thompson said. "You just have to roll with the punches. You can't control the weather."

Or the vagaries of a previously reliable charter bus. At a rest stop on Interstate 95 in Connecticut, the bus door lost air pressure and would not fully close. Beyond the obvious safety issue, it also was 25 degrees outside.

After the driver was walked through several trouble-shooting steps by his home office, the problem was resolved, and the trip continued.

"All in all," Belec said, "a pretty good day."

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