TAMPA — The running joke around the Lightning locker room is that Alex Killorn is the team’s longest-tenured player, and technically it might be true. Killorn was drafted in 2007, one year before Tampa Bay took Steven Stamkos No. 1 overall.
“You know he brings that up every now and then,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said with a smile.
Killorn often can get overlooked on the Lightning’s veteran-laden roster. But the truth is, in the middle of his ninth season in Tampa Bay, he is one of the keystones of the organization, both on and off the ice. This season, he became one of just six players to play 600 games in a Lightning uniform.
Killorn arrived in Tampa in 2012 as a wide-eyed 23-year-old not far removed from his college days at Harvard. He grew up in Montreal and heard stories from snowbirds of how great the hockey atmosphere was in Tampa Bay. Now, he considers the bay area his home.
Killorn’s teammates call him the Lightning’s resident influencer. During the lockdown, he turned an idea of going on a Sea-Doo to interview teammates on the water into a social media hit that stood out in a sport so traditionally lodged in a team-first mentality.
But it’s such out-of-the-box thinking that has made Killorn stand out. He used his “Dock Talk with Killer” Instagram Live show to raise more than $50,000 for the Hillsborough Education Foundation, while giving fans an inside glimpse into the players’ personalities.
“Maybe that’s why people were endeared to it, because it wasn’t just me promoting myself,” Killorn said. “Just with hockey guys, it’s not part of their personality to do that, so you kind of want to do it without seeming selfish or whatever it may seem, but I think we’re in a transition period where guys aren’t too worried about it.”
Killorn is a fan favorite in a market that loves players who do the dirty work as much as the stars. And for years, Killorn has done the little things, battling for pucks, working in front of the net and contributing on both special teams units while developing naturally into a leader. Teammates say he’s been a positive influence and mentor for younger players such as burgeoning star Anthony Cirelli.
“What I’ve liked about Alex is his growth, not only on the ice, but in the community,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Take the ‘Dock Talk,’ for example. I know it’s fun and it’s different, but just the cause, where the money goes, what he does with it … You want players not only to perform in your eyes but to represent your team with class off the ice, and Alex goes to the top of the list for guys who have done that.”
During the pause, Killorn was asked to post a message to fans on social media. He thought he could do more. What makes Tampa unique, he asked himself? The water. Where else could he hop on a Sea-Doo, visit his teammates and do live interviews? That way he could bring fans closer to players when no sports were happening and everyone was in quarantine.
The organic nature of the idea became an instant hit. Killorn interviewed teammates, other Tampa Bay athletes like Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, and Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson, a Lightning fan who has a home in Tampa. And yes, they talked about the knuckle puck shot Thompson made famous in his role in “The Mighty Ducks” movie series.
“(Thompson) was awesome,” Killorn said. “He was honestly one of the best guests. When he jumped on the (Sea-Doo), he just flew, and it’s a no-wake zone and all of the wake was hitting all the boats. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a no-wake zone, so I just kind of let him fly.”
Killorn wanted to do more, so he began selling “Dock Talk” T-shirts, donating the proceeds to the Hillsborough Education Foundation, which had to cancel two of its fundraising events due to the pandemic. Killorn delivered a check for $51,465.29, which helped the foundation provide internet access and devices for students in need during the pandemic and is helping teachers at struggling schools with curriculum enrichment.
“He definitely helped us close the digital divide,” said Hillsborough Education Foundation president Kim Jowell, who said Killorn’s donation helped get 1,000 students connected. “Somebody of his influence knew it was important to invest in education. If we do not invest in it now, we all will be paying for it later. And that was giving the voice to the importance of investing in education, having fun while doing it.”
“Dock Talk” was such a hit that the league approached Killorn during the 2020 playoffs about expanding it, but he didn’t want to risk being a distraction while the Lightning were chasing the Stanley Cup. He does plan to have a second season of the show in the offseason. He plans to expand the guest list, hoping to get Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski on a Sea-Doo.
Killorn recently became part-owner of a BurgerFi franchise that opened in December in the Central Avenue corridor of downtown St. Petersburg and hopes to grow the chain throughout the bay area. Because of the pandemic, his location does 60 to 70 percent of its business in carryout and has yet to have a formal grand opening.
“I know he’s very much tied into education, and it’s one of his passions,” said Nick Quarantillo, the restaurant’s franchisee. “We haven’t done any events due to COVID, so when we go to that area, we certainly will listen to Alex, maybe some of our events will be based on that.”
Killorn said he also can’t wait to partner with teammate Ryan McDonagh for another KanJam (a flying disc game) benefit tournament. Last year’s event, which was held right before the pandemic, benefitted the Moffitt Cancer Center.
“He was 100-percent in right away and thrilled to be a part of it,” McDonagh said. “You just see the experience that he’s gained, the confidence that he has in his ability and his willingness to help others around him.”
The league’s in-season health and safety protocols don’t allow players to interact with the public because of the pandemic, but Killorn is anxious to get back to interacting with fans in person.
“I think whenever you can get the fans involved it’s great, because I call Tampa home,” Killorn said. “It’s where I live pretty much all year, so I really want to be a part of the community going forward.”
That devotion doesn’t stop during the season. Jowell said she recently received a call out of the blue informing her that Killorn had bought an extra laptop and wanted to donate it to the foundation, which plans on gifting it to a top-performing student in its mentoring program.
“We are still getting the blessings of Alex,” Jowell said. “There’s an altruistic way about him. You know he’s doing it from a really good place.”
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