Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Brazilian fan is Lightning's 'Distant Thunder'

Short shift w/assistant Steve Thomas (left)

First job: My dad was the maintenance supervisor in charge of all the machinery in the factory, called Canadian International Paper. They made beer boxes and milk cartons. My dad got me a job on an assembly line taking stacks of boxes and putting them in a pile. I was 15 years old, and I was making $16 an hour. Seven till 3 (a.m.) Had to work midnights but made a lot of money. After that I worked on a farm, and I bailed hay for $1.50.

Your first car: A 1972 Dodge Charger. It was my dad's car. He gave it to me, and he bought the same car.

What was the final mileage on it? I can't remember, but I smashed it up, though. It was a green car, and it had a red fender on it.

Most embarrassing hockey moment: I was in the playoffs … and we were playing Dallas, and (Derian) Hatcher hit me really hard, and I was kind of on goofy street, and I went to their bench and tried to get in their bench. Their guys were pushing me to my bench.

Favorite movie: I'd have to say Forrest Gump is right up there. Seen (it) many, many times.

Best concert: A small venue in Toronto called the Masonic Temple and I saw the Beastie Boys, and it was unbelievable. Fifteen years ago.

Most prized memorabilia: Only thing I have hung up are the six jerseys of the teams I played on. Have them framed in a library in my house.

A new fan experience

Rafael Amarante has been an unlikely Lightning fan from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, since the 2004 Stanley Cup run. "I am the only hockey fan (in his hometown)," he says.

Amarante, 27, watches a lot of Tampa Bay games. His favorite players are Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov. Thanks to the Lightning, Amarante — a teacher now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, getting his doctorate in chemical engineering — got to see his first hockey game in person Thursday in Ottawa, escorted around by former captain Dave Andreychuk (the two are in the photo above). Coach Jon Cooper even invited Amarante to ask the first question in the postgame news conference. Saturday, Amarante was a special guest at the Lightning's home game against Carolina, his first time in the United States.

Amarante is the start of the Lightning's "Distant Thunder" program, which finds and connects fans from all over the globe. Those fans can go to lightningdistantthunder.com and share their stories and videos.

"We're not naive to believe we're the fan base of a New York or Montreal or Toronto or Chicago," said Eric Blankenship, the Lightning's vice president of marketing. "But we do embrace the fact we're hockey in Tampa. And we have fans all over the world."

Blankenship said the Lightning found out about Amarante during last year's playoffs through a marketing agency it works with. It decided to send people to Brazil to learn more about Amarante, and it shot a video that is displayed on its website. The video also was played on the Jumbotron at Saturday's game, and the Amalie Arena crowd gave Amarante a standing ovation.

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