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Braydon Coburn meets NASCAR driver Aric Almirola

The Lightning defenseman and Tampa Bay native exchanged jerseys before Saturday's game.
Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn and NASCAR driver Aric Almirola, a Egypt Lake native, exchanged jerseys before Saturday's game.
[Ernest Hooper -- Tampa Bay Times]
Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn and NASCAR driver Aric Almirola, a Egypt Lake native, exchanged jerseys before Saturday's game. [Ernest Hooper -- Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 20

Aric Almirola grew up about 10 miles from Amalie Arena in Tampa's Egypt Lake area.

Braydon Coburn grew up about 2,500 miles from the arena in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan.

But that didn't stop the NASCAR driver from hitting it off with Lightning defenseman during a jersey exchange on Saturday morning.

"They told me you were big," the 6-foot Almirola said to the 6-foot-5 Coburn.

Almirola, who finished fifth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season standings last year, dropped by the Lightning's morning skate before serving as grand marshal of the Gasparilla Children's Parade Saturday.

Almirola returned Saturday night with his family to watch Tampa Bay take on the San Jose Sharks. Coburn teased Almirola's 5-year-old son Alex that the team would have to fend off the Sharks with their sticks and not get bitten. Alex's eyes grew wide and he grimaced like only a kid can.

Coburn appeared at ease conversing with Alex and his 6-year-old sister Abby — probably because he has two kids of his own: a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old who were off playing in a hockey tournament Saturday.

Almirola presented Coburn with an autographed helmet, customized with a Lightning log. Coburn gave Almirola and his kids jerseys with the number 10 and their names stitched on the back. The Hillsborough High graduate drives the No. 10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

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