In the right direction
It has been about six weeks since Pat Jablonski removed the brace that kept his healing neck bones steady. Since then, he has started to jog, lift light weights and play tennis and even some golf.
Best, of course, is he once again can pick up daughters Onna, 3, and Olivia, 6.
"Everything," Jablonski said, "is fine."
The Lightning's first goalie broke his neck in a Sept. 1 bodysurfing accident off Anna Maria Island. If not for the quick work of new friend Alejandro Martin, a Newark, N.J., cop vacationing in the same spot, Jablonski might have drowned.
A titanium plate and six screws put his neck back together. A major step to regaining normalcy was the removal of the brace.
"It was like my little security blanket," said Jablonski, 41, of Lutz. "I knew it was restricting me, and as much as it looked uncomfortable, I knew it was protecting my neck. I didn't mind it."
Still, removing it was important.
"I was ready to get the muscles in my neck strong," he said.
Slowing the opposition
The ice at Edmonton's Rexall Place is considered the NHL's best, but LW Gary Roberts, 42, includes the ice at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena as well. Still, the veteran said the slicker surfaces give speedier opponents an advantage.
"At my age, I'm not always looking for good ice," he said. "I'm looking for bad ice. It levels the playing field a little bit."
The right thing to do
Give the owners credit for understanding not only the country's economic situation, but the state of the team in lowering season-ticket prices for 2009-10.
It has been a tough season in attendance for Tampa Bay, which has been giving away about 2,500 tickets a game, boosting announced average attendance to 16,329. Even that, though, is just 21st in the 30-team league.
Most notable is the reclassification of 300 upper-deck seats that this season went for $1,199 but next season will be $239, a reduction of 80 percent. Another 1,000 upper-deck seats that went for $699 this season will be $239. As the team said in a release, about 4,000 will be available for that price in 2009-10.
"We hope these price structures along with the cornerstones we have in place for our future growth on the ice energize our fans for next season," owner Oren Koules said in a statement.
Here is a broad breakdown as provided by the team:
Section 2008-092009-10Pct. change
Jeep Club (Row A) $4,015$3,599-10
Jeep Club (Sideline) $3,699$3,299-11
Plaza (Center) $3,699$3,399-8
Plaza (Middle) $3,199$2,899-9
Plaza (End zone) $2,499$2,199-12
Plaza (End zone) Nonattack, Row C-J $1,999$1,799-10
Plaza (End zone) Nonattack, Row K-above $1,599$1,499-6
Jeep Club (End zone) $1,999$1,799-10
Terrace (Row A) $1,749$1,399-20
Terrace (Center) $1,199$959-20
Terrace (End/Corner) $699$559-20
Terrace (Last 7 rows) $499$239-52
LW David Koci
Do you enjoy the enforcer role?
I enjoy playing hockey.
What kind of players did you enjoy watching while growing up?
I liked them to play hard and tough and to play honest.
Do you worry about being hurt in a fight?
Does it feel good to drop a guy with a punch?
Of course if feels good to win a fight.
Is it always business, never personal?
It's a battle. It's emotional, and it's fast. And then it's over.