The goal: to score a goal
So important a moment in his career was scoring a goal, Mike McKenna even recalled the date: St. Patrick's Day 2001, against the St. Louis Sting. "It was the highlight of my life," said the Lightning goaltender, left, who at the time played for the Springfield (Ill.) Junior Blues of the North American Hockey League. "Honest to God, until (a Feb. 7 shutout of the Islanders), it was probably the highlight of my career. I always wanted to do it as a kid but never thought it was possible." But facing an empty net and with the Sting's defensemen pinching into the offensive zone, McKenna let fly. "Hell, yes," he said when asked if he was shooting for the net. "They dumped it around the boards. I picked it up and saw the defense trapped, so I just turned around and got it over everybody." What was it like when he saw it go in? "It was the coolest thing ever."
As Lightning players last week walked to the Hockey and Hearts luncheon, a charity event in which players deliver Valentine's Day gift packages, goalie Mike McKenna playfully pointed out that he was the only one without a name on the back of the alternate blue jersey players wore so they could be easily identified. Even Josef Melichar, in his first day with the team, had a name on his jersey.
Equipment manager Ray Thill said it was simply an oversight.
"Nothing to look into," he said.
Those were the days
Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier are the last remaining players from the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup team. Reminded of that recently, St. Louis, above, took a small stroll down memory lane. "It's hard sometimes to sit back and realize where we are," he said. "I've been in this dressing room when champagne was everywhere. It seems like a long time ago."
No telling how long the combination will last; coach Rick Tocchet moves players around so much during a game, it sometimes is difficult to keep track of who is playing with whom. But it has been interesting to watch LW Gary Roberts, left, who at 42 is older than the combined ages of linemates Steven Stamkos (19) and Steve Downie (21). Neither had been born when Roberts made his 1986 debut.
The "Over/Under Line," as it is being called — you know, over 40 and under — is fairly dynamic. Stamkos and Downie have that youthful exuberance, and Roberts is the tough-as-nails veteran.
"The way Robs works in practice, for Downie and Stamkos to watch the way he prepares, I think their level of practice has gotten better," Tocchet said.
"They are not to where we want them to be, but they are getting better. And I think Gary Roberts has a lot to do with that."
5 questions | D Josef Melichar
What are your hobbies? I like to build houses. It keeps me busy. You get up in the morning and get everything organized.
By yourself? Me and my dad, with a few helpers.
What have you built? I just finished my house (outside his hometown, Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic).
Is it big? It's about 3,000 square feet. It took about five years.
How satisfying is that? It's nice to see things growing up around you.