From a hockey standpoint, Wednesday's 7-3 victory over Chicago couldn't have been scripted any better for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But all wasn't perfect at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. There were some glitches that must be addressed before the team returns home Oct. 20.
Some of the seats in the auxiliary bleachers were too low, below the boards, which forced the people in the first two rows (about 30 people) to stand. That, in turn, forced those behind them to stand. Those fans were further irritated by the large number of cameras there _ an overflow from the press box above the bleachers.
"The (people in the) first two rows had a terrible time seeing the game," said Doug Smith, the superintendent and events coordinator/staging production for the Florida State Fair Authority. "Those seats are pretty low. It's something that slipped through the cracks."
Lightning spokesman Gerry Helper said names of the fans were collected, and the team is going to address how to soothe any ill feelings. The good thing, he said, is that the bleachers aren't season tickets, and tickets for the first two rows may not be sold.
Smith said his "biggest headache" was that at least 100 double tickets were sold. But he said the Lightning quickly set up a customer-service table and made sure everyone had a seat.
"We don't want anyone who goes to what might be their first hockey game to go away with less than a great experience," Helper said.
Lightning president Phil Esposito said the club may hire a tutor to teach English to Roman Hamrlik, the first pick overall in the entry draft. Hamrlik, from Czechoslovakia, speaks little English and has relied on teammate Rick Lanz to translate. Esposito said Hamrlik's parents, Zdenek and Milada, are moving here, and the whole family may learn together.
The Lightning reduced its roster to 24 players Thursday, assigning right winger Tim Bergland and Lanz, a defenseman, to Atlanta. The only hitch is that Lanz signed late and had to be put on waivers, leaving him exposed for 48 hours for any other team to pick up. However, Lanz was left unprotected for last Sunday's waiver draft and wasn't selected.
Watching the kids
Esposito said he may stop in Peoria, Ill, before joining the team in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday. The Lightning's minor-league affiliate, the Atlanta Knights, opens its International Hockey League at Peoria today.
"It'd be great to see the kids play," he said.
When a player scores his third goal in a game, which is commonly called a "hat trick," fans occasionally toss their hats to the ice in appreciation.
But no matter how old a hockey tradition is, it's new here. That's why Expo Hall security escorted a fan from his seat when he threw his hat to the ice after Chris Kontos scored his third goal of the night. The fan was allowed to return when the Lightning told security the hat thing is okay.
Now that the puck officially has been dropped, Lightning ticket sales are on the rise. The three packages offered (10-, 21- and 41-games) have sold out all the $12 and $19.50 tickets.