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Lightning players bond over jersey memories

Lightning players wear jerseys from teams for which they played on their way to the NHL for Monday’s trip to Vancouver.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning players wear jerseys from teams for which they played on their way to the NHL for Monday’s trip to Vancouver.

TAMPA — The last time Lightning center Tom Pyatt wore his Thunder Bay Elks jersey, he was 10 years old, playing junior hockey in Ontario.

The white and purple sweater still has the captain's "C" in the front and his familiar No. 11 on the back.

But does it still fit?

"Maybe without the shoulder pads," Pyatt said, smiling.

Pyatt squeezed into the shirt Monday as part of the Lightning's wardrobe-themed road trip to western Canada. Coach Jon Cooper, taking a page from Rays manager Joe Maddon's theme-dressing playbook, thought it'd be a good bonding experience for his players to wear jerseys from their college or junior days, recognizing where they came from.

So as the Lightning boarded its flight to Vancouver to start a four-game, week-long trek, it took a trip down memory lane, sporting a rainbow of colors and logos from around the globe, from the junior Seattle Thunderbirds to Sweden's junior IK Satra.

"It'll be fun for the guys and to get to find out about teams that you never probably heard of or never knew that guys played for," Cooper said. "And with some of those, it'll give an opportunity for guys to talk about their teams, talk about where they came from."

Some went the college route, including goalie Ben Bishop and wing Teddy Purcell (University of Maine), captain Marty St. Louis (Vermont), wing Alex Killorn (Harvard) and wing J.T. Brown (Minnesota-Duluth).

"Just giving back to them," Brown said of his college nod. "Obviously, you went through their program to get to where you are now."

Many players dug into their junior days, including defenseman Matt Carle (Alaska All-Stars), goalie Anders Lindback (IK Satra), center Tyler Johnson (Spokane Chiefs) and center Nate Thompson (Seattle Thunderbirds).

Defenseman Mark Barberio found his jersey from the Lakeshore Panthers, whom he played with from ages 5 to 15 in Montreal's West Island. Barberio pointed out that Killorn came from the same program.

"I actually got my jersey that I wore when I was 12. We won our championship," Barberio said. "I had it in my room in my closet."

Locating some of the jerseys took plenty of phone calls and long-distance shipping. Center Valtteri Filppula couldn't find one, so supported a local Brandon youth team instead. Defenseman Jean Philippe-Cote is still very close to his high school program in Montreal, St. Francois, and considered wearing the colors as a tribute.

"The main director, which me and my wife are close to — he's the priest that married us — passed away this summer," Philippe-Cote said. "He was really proud of his sports teams."

Carle, 29, a 10-year veteran, said he'd never seen anything like the wardrobe-themed trip but enjoyed it. Killorn said some guys were skeptical at first but they all quickly bought in.

Said Johnson: "It'll be cool to see where everybody came from."

MISC: With the Lightning putting LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie on waivers Monday, it appears LW Ryan Malone (ankle fracture) is nearing his return. If Labrie clears waivers, he can go back to AHL Syracuse.

Follow Joe Smith on Twitter at @TBTimes_JSmith.

Lightning players bond over jersey memories 12/30/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 9:08pm]
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