TAMPA — Toward the end of Tuesday’s Lightning practice, an imposing figure emerged from the tunnel and took to the ice at Amalie Arena.
Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski came out to a flurry of stick taps, dressed in a full Lightning uniform, skates and all.
Gronkowski was a guest of the team Tuesday and fit in easily with the group, skating well for an NFL tight end. Growing up near Buffalo, N.Y., Gronkowski played hockey as a kid until switching to basketball at the age of 14.
On Tuesday, Gronkowski wore a blue No. 87 Lightning jersey, participated in shootout drills, took part in a mock checking drill with forward Pat Maroon, and even took a turn in the net in full goaltending gear, facing rounds of shots from Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn. After Gronkowski stopped a shot by Andrei Vasilevskiy, he deadpanned, “Stick to goaltending,” to the Vezina Trophy candidate.
Gronkowski also brought the Lombardi Trophy to practice.
The Lightning have been big supporters of the Bucs. They brought the Stanley Cup to a Bucs home game in October. They were on the road in Nashville when the Bucs played in the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium and were forced to remain in the team hotel because of coronavirus protocols. But the team gathered in a hotel ballroom together to root for the Bucs on Super Bowl Sunday.
Before the hockey season, Killorn and goaltender Vasilevskiy met up with Gronkowski. They showed off the Stanley Cup and played video games together.
“It’s a little bit different with COVID,” KIllorn said. “But as teams get together, we’ve been together with the Rays players and stuff, there’s definitely a camaraderie amongst the teams, and I think we’re both kind of poised to hopefully have good (postseasons) again. I know they’ve gotten all of their returners back, so it’s just exciting for the city in general.”
The Lightning and the Gronkowski family’s YouTube channel (The Gronks) will post content from Gronkowski’s visit to Amalie Arena next week.
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