TAMPA — You've probably witnessed many arena or ballpark proposals over the years.
It's pretty cookie cutter: the JumboTron pans to a couple in the stands. The guy pops the question. The stunned woman says "Yes." A stadium attendant hands her red roses. The crowd cheers.
Well, Tuesday offered quite a different twist.
Jeremy Joniak, 26, of Lithia, and long-time girlfriend Kristen Brown, 24, of Brandon, got engaged during the Lightning practice at Amalie Arena. He proposed with a puck that had "will you marry me" written in white on it. Lightning players, during a break, stick-tapped and clapped for the couple.
"I was pointing at myself, like, 'It's me?' " said Brown, her hands still shaking. "I had no idea. Amazing. Not even words to describe how amazing it is."
The couple met six years ago at Newsome High School. Brown was going to a friend's volleyball game and Jeremy, through a mutual friend, was dragged along.
"He got forced into it," she joked.
"One thing led to another," he said.
They both love hockey and attend many Lightning games, including one last season when Marty St. Louis had his jersey retired. They play ball hockey (on the same line) together in Ellenton. Josh Dreith, a community hockey manager for the Lightning, is also in the league.
Joniak emailed Dreith a few months ago to set this perfect proposal in motion. Kristen Bowness, fellow community hockey manager and daughter of associate coach Rick Bowness, helped pull some strings.
"It all just came together," Dreith said.
Joniak, a transporter at Tampa General Hospital, told Brown, a nurse in the neuro IC, to get Tuesday night off because they were going to a Lightning practice. Both wore Lightning T-shirts and sat in the lower bowl behind the team's bench.
Kristen Bowness gave Joniak a signal when it was time.
"I'm like, 'Oh my gosh,' " Joniak said. "Very nervous."
Joniak gave Brown the puck in a short-but-sweet, speaks-for-itself proposal. Then Joniak pulled out the ring, which belonged to his late mother, Jennifer, who died 10 years ago due to an enlarged heart.
"It's perfect," Brown said.
Dreith came over and gave the couple a Lightning stick with "I said yes" on the blade. Coach Jon Cooper soon came up to the stands to chat before inviting them on the bench for the end of practice. One-by-one, Lightning players came off to offer congratulations and sign the stick.
"Well done," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It's obviously a big event, always exciting to see it and be somewhat a part of it."
Brown, admittedly also a fan of the Rangers, posed for pictures with former New York players J.T. Miller, Stralman and Ryan McDonagh. At one point, Brown turned to Cooper with a request that made him laugh.
"Any chance I could meet (former Rangers captain) Ryan Callahan? I've got the biggest crush on him."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.