TAMPA — After a long flight from Tampa, Lightning players and coaches were surprised to arrive at their rooms at Hotel X and find a little surprise.
Personalized, electronic photo frames were one of the non-hotel-issued amenities inside each of their rooms, complete with photos uploaded from their families back home.
“It was a really good touch for the players walking in and a huge surprise for us,” said Pat Maroon, who has a son, Anthony, and fiancee, Francesca Vangel, back home. “Obviously being away from family, wife, kids, it’s going to be tough on the guys. But knowing that they can update our pictures throughout the month in Toronto, it’s pretty cool.”
Kevin Shattenkirk said his older brothers, Eric and Keith, had some fun with his photo frame, adding some “old school” pictures that “were pretty awesome.” Shattenkirk’s wife, Deanna, had already sneaked a few photos into his suitcase before he left.
“It gave me a laugh,” he said. “Those little, you know, glances at the picture frame, whenever you walk into your room just gives you a great feeling.”
Coach Jon Cooper agreed the family pictures were great. And the photos he saw Sunday night were different from the ones he found Monday morning when he woke up.
“Definitely, it’s exciting getting up in the morning to see the family pictures,” he said.
The photo frames were the second pleasant surprise of the trip.
Sunday night, a group of fans gathered at the airport to wish the team well as they left for Toronto.
Cooper said seeing the fans at the airport gate was unexpected. Typically, he and the players would stop to say hello and interact with them, but they couldn’t because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The mere fact that they’re showing their support in the middle of the afternoon, in 90-degree heat, just shows you we’ll miss them and we’ll be thinking of them when we take the ice for games,” Cooper said.
Blake Coleman, who was acquired at the trade deadline, hasn’t had a chance to be around the fans that often but said it was nice to see them at the airport.
“Obviously, it shows there’s a lot of excitement around the city of Tampa around these playoffs and around this team,” Coleman said, “So I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Coleman said it was “cool” to find the personalized photo frame in his room, following a long night.
The forward joked it was confusing at first, because he thought someone had hacked into his phone to get the photos.
“It was a great touch,” Coleman said. “Obviously, to be reminded of what you’re playing for and who’s back home waiting on you.”