Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Nate Thompson to play in native Alaska during lockout

Even for a professional athlete, there is something to be said for fulfilling a childhood dream.

Take Lightning center Nate Thompson, who during the NHL lockout will play for the minor-league Alaska Aces in his hometown, Anchorage.

Thompson grew up watching the Aces and the University of Alaska Anchorage play at Sullivan Arena. So to lace up the skates in a venue with so many memories and to play in front of his parents and friends, well, what could be better?

"I went to games every weekend," Thompson said. "I was part of the booster clubs. To be able to play in the rink I grew up in is going to be pretty neat."

Beyond that, Thompson's choice is interesting.

The Aces play in the East Coast league, two rungs below the NHL. Salaries for players with 25 pro games of experience start at $425 a week, teams have a $12,400 weekly salary cap, and Thompson will pay for his insurance.

And because of their location, the Aces travel to most games by plane, taking commercial flights with food for purchase. That's quite a difference from the free steak, pasta and fish options on Lightning charters, on which every seat is first class, another reason NHLers are jokingly called "silver spooners" by their minor-league brethren.

Even so, Thompson said, "For me it's important. I grew up here, and it's a pretty tight-knit community, especially the hockey community. Maybe I can help a young guy on the way while I'm doing this. And they're helping me, too, having a spot for me and being able to play."

And that is what it comes down to.

Anchorage native Scott Gomez played for the Aces during the 2004-05 lockout and in 2005-06 with the Devils had career bests of 33 goals and 84 points. Gomez, now with the Canadiens, said Sullivan Arena's Olympic-size ice surface, which is bigger than the NHL's, "helps your skating. It builds you confidence in the fact that you're creating (plays)." And the minor-league lifestyle, including often playing three games in three nights "brings you back to being a kid again."

"It makes it fun again," said Gomez, who is practicing but not playing with the Aces. "You appreciate where you're at. And like I told Nate, the people back in Alaska, you can't put into words how appreciative they are for the local boys to give back to the community. You find the love again."

That shouldn't be difficult for Thompson, 28, one of the Lightning's hardest workers and best penalty killers, who in 68 games last season had nine goals and 15 points.

"He's not going to think of himself as above these guys," said Aces coach Rob Murray, who coached Thompson from 2005-08 at AHL Providence in the Bruins system. "He's going to work just as hard in practice, and when the season starts, he's going to give everything he's got. He's not going to change his game."

"When you're out there with the guys and it's all said and done, you're on the same team and you all play hockey and you have that in common," Thompson said. "Once we get going, I'm sure I'll be just another guy on the Alaska Aces."

McBAIN PLEADS GUILTY: Former Lightning defenseman Mike McBain pleaded guilty in Las Vegas to attempted sexual assault and attempted lewdness with a child. McBain, 35, whom the Lightning drafted in 1995's second round , was accused of sexually assaulting a girl younger than 14 over four years. He is free on $75,000 bail pending sentencing Jan. 30. McBain, with Tampa Bay from 1997-99, finished his career with ECHL Las Vegas from 2003-08.

talks resume: Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with union head Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr at the union office in Toronto for about two hours Friday, the sides' first session since talks broke off Tuesday. The sides said they had general discussions about how to move the process forward and will be in contact over the weekend.

Blues: The team and president of operations John Davidson said they amicably agreed to part ways.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Lightning's Nate Thompson to play in native Alaska during lockout 10/05/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 9:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  2. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) pumps his fist to the crowd after Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Bucs play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Sorting through the Bucs' injuries


    Greg Auman sorts through the Bucs players sidelined with injury and illness in the latest edition of our Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Kwon Alexander left the Bucs' game against the Bears with a hamstring injury. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. College football week 4: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions


    The Times' college football coverage team makes its picks for week 4 of the college football season:

    USF coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls face Temple in a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting


    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]