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Young Lightning fans get a chance to question the players

The team hosted a kids press conference and fans interacted with players at the annual Fan Fest.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy signs the jersey of Piper Mattacchione, 7, during the Lightning Fan Fest which featured photo ops and autograph sessions on Sunday. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Sep. 15
Updated Sep. 16

TAMPA — Braydon Coburn and Tyler Johnson are old hands at news conferences, but they aren’t usually asked for their corniest moments or childhood dream jobs.

This news conference was different: No grownups allowed. The Lightning hosted a kids news conference as part of Fan Fest on Sunday at Amalie Arena.

Some of the team’s youngest fans got a chance to ask the two players anything they wanted.

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Johnson said his corniest moments are some of the videos the Lightning films. Coburn said he was into dinosaurs as a kid and wanted to be a paleontologist.

Marcus and Arya Galante, siblings from Tampa, asked questions that got the crowd laughing.

Marcus, 5, asked the players what video games they like to play. Johnson, 29, said he spends his free time playing Fortnite and FIFA. Coburn, 34, dated himself, recalling his time playing NHL ’94 on his Super Nintendo.

Arya, 4, asked how they get dressed by themselves. Arya’s mom, Alitta Galante, quickly stepped in to say her daughter wanted to know how long they take to get their equipment on before games. Alitta said the question was inspired by Marcus, who is in his first year of organized hockey and can take more than 45 minutes to get ready for practices and games.

Coburn said he takes a little longer because he changes his undershirt at each intermission.

Another question was “Did you get good grades in school?” Both players said they were straight-A students. Johnson did say he got grounded once for getting an A-minus. The parents liked that answer.

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One boy asked the hardest-hitting question of the afternoon:

“Are you going to win the Stanley Cup?”

Coburn gave the crowd exactly what they wanted to hear: “Is there any doubt?”

Finally, Stamkos

For five years, Makayla Johns, 12, has been coming to Fan Fest, hoping to be in Steven Stamkos’ autograph line. Fans don’t know which players will be at which signing stations until the session starts, so she and her dad have never known whom they’ll get.

Over the years, Makayla has gotten Brian Boyle, J.T. Brown, Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde to sign her Stamkos jersey.

On Sunday, she got Stamkos. The captain signed her jersey and gave her a big high five.

Best kind of consolation prize

Piper and Roman Mattacchione of Riverview went to Fan Fest looking for Nikita Kucherov’s autograph. The siblings, 7 and 9, respectively, found his line and slowly inched their way toward the table.

They made it to second in line when the autograph session ended and Kucherov’s time was up.

The Mattacchiones decided to hang around to see who would be at the table next. They ended up with prime spots to add Andrei Vasilevskiy’s autograph to their sticks and Piper’s jersey.

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It’s the little things

The Lightning have a Thunderbug camera on a pillar in the main concourse of Amalie Arena. Anyone who steps in the camera’s range appears on the screen with Thunderbug’s head on their body.

Marianna Hudgins, 4, had a blast popping in and out of range to turn herself into a mascot. Anthony Thomasini, 3, stood just out of range, calling out in delight every time her big mascot head appeared on the screen.

Anthony didn’t want to get in front of the camera himself, but he enjoyed seeing his favorite mascot. He looks for Thunderbug at all the games.

Loose pucks

Andrew Linder got his Mikhail Sergachev jersey as a season-ticket-holder gift. He chose Sergachev because the Lightning had just traded for him when he bought his package. He finally had an opportunity to get the jersey signed. … Terry Schlegel pulled a replica Stanley Cup out of his backpack at Vasilevskiy’s table. The goalie looked at it and quipped, “I can’t sign it yet. I’ll sign it later.”

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