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)

Original Lightning defenseman Roman Hamrlik returns — with the Capitals

TAMPA — To celebrate the start of the Lightning's 20th anniversary season, five players from the inaugural team were recognized at center ice before Saturday's game.

Four wore retro Tampa Bay jerseys: Brian Bradley, the team's first All-Star; Chris Kontos, who scored four goals in the franchise's first game; Joe Reekie and Pat Jablonski.

But to founder Phil Esposito, the fifth was just as special — even if he came off the Capitals' bench: Roman Hamrlik, the only active player from that team.

"I said to him, 'You're skinnier now than you were when you were 18,' " Esposito said, laughing. "He says, 'When you get older, you have to get thinner.' "

Before the Lightning made Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos top overall picks, Hamrlik, a strong, two-way defenseman currently listed at 206 pounds, was their first ever draft choice (No. 1 overall in 1992). And though Hamrlik, 38, has since played for five other teams, he said he holds his first 51/2 seasons in the league in special regard.

"It's really crazy," Hamrlik said before the game. "I have so many memories from here. It's where I started, and I had the opportunity to play with some great players. It's a new season now, and I'm with a different team now. But it's incredible. I'll never forget this place."

Hamrlik, traded to the Oilers on Dec. 30, 1997, also played for the Islanders, Flames and Canadiens before joining the Capitals last season. Saturday, he played his 1,380th game, most for a Czech-born player, and he missed nearly 150 more because of three lockouts.

To stay in the league, Hamrlik had to stay healthy — and evolve.

"When you get older, you train harder every summer," Hamrlik said. "And you play a little bit smarter. You try to play with your experience, stick on the ice, learn like (Red Wings star defenseman) Nicklas Lidstrom. I always look up to some of the older guys, how they play and try to learn from them so hopefully I can still bring something to the team."

Hamrlik, in the final year of his deal with Washington, said he still has passion for the game and is driven by the goal to win his first Stanley Cup. But he admitted he never envisioned being here, more than two decades removed from his debut, for the Lightning's commemorative celebration.

"It's going to be a special night for me; a special night for the fans, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, for the organization," Hamrlik said. "I'm really lucky to still play hockey right now at this level, and I'm going to try to enjoy every day of it."

Joe Smith can be reached at

Original Lightning defenseman Roman Hamrlik returns — with the Capitals 01/21/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Offense showing some life



  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Tampa lawyer Fred Ridley to be new chairman of Augusta National, Masters' home (w/ video)


    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

  4. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, activate Alex Cobb


    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  5. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.