TAMPA — Every game day this postseason Ellis Allanson has asked his stepfather, Dave McQuillen, the same question: “Dave, tickets? Do we have tickets?”
On May 30, Allanson and McQuillen pulled a double shift, watching the Rays host the Phillies that afternoon before driving across the bridge for the Lightning’s Game 1 watch party against the Hurricanes.
The two already were having a great day with a 6-2 Rays win at Tropicana Field. Then Allanson put on a show, dancing in the aisles inside Amalie Arena. The camera spotted him and zoomed in on the 22-year-old Winter Haven native.
The crowd loved Allanson’s energy, and he danced for the rest of the right as the Lightning won 2-1.
That’s when a member of the Blue Crew — the in-game hype team that energizes the crowd during home games and watch parties — walked over to Allanson and McQuillen and invited them to the next home playoff game, giving them a pair of tickets in the 100s level by the Zamboni entrance. The trend has continued since with playoff tickets to every home game.
“He was doing his thing,” McQuillen said. “If he sees a Jumbotron, he’s doing everything in his power to get on it. That’s what he does.”
Allanson has become an icon around Amalie Arena since his video board debut. In Monday’s series opener against Montreal, fans came up to Allanson — you can’t miss his blue hair — and called him by name, asking for photos in a nearby parking lot.
Even national anthem singer Sonya Bryson-Kirksey wanted a picture with Allanson.
“It’s that unfiltered passion that he brings,” said Lightning in-game host Greg Wolf. “We’ve almost adopted him as our little brother.”
In a way, Allanson is an adopted member of the Blue Crew.
“We need 100,000 more Ellises,” said Wolf, who has been the Lightning’s in-game host for 14 seasons. “He’s kind of swept everyone off their feet with that passion of it doesn’t matter win or lose, I’m still going to give it 100 percent every time I’m in this building, and that’s starting to wear off on fans.”
Allanson, who has Down syndrome, works at Publix part-time and volunteers at AdventHealth Heart of Florida hospital in Davenport once a week. On Wednesday, he napped after his shift, just like how many hockey players prepare for their big night.
Allanson’s dances aren’t scripted. He just goes where the music takes him and when it gets time for the dance-off portion of the in-game presentation, he’s more than ready to bust out all kinds of moves.
“The people just love him,” McQuillen said.
When Allanson isn’t dancing or watching the game — talking about his favorite player Steven Stamkos or teammates like Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov — he’s walking around the lower bowl.
“In between periods, I just kind of follow him around and let him do his thing,” McQuillen said. “He just walks around, high-fives other fans. ... He walked around the other night with the Canadiens fans, we were getting drinks, he’s shaking their hands and wishing them good luck.
“It’s just cool to watch people’s interaction with him. Ellis changes people’s opinion about handicaps. Everybody that knows Ellis, loves Ellis. He’s that infectious. If you have any preconceived conceptions about special needs people, any of them, he’ll change them for you just because of who he is.”
Ahead of the Lightning’s Game 2 against the Canadiens, Allanson got an official warmup puck from Stamkos. He also led the “Be The Thunder” chant.
Allanson and McQuillen don’t know when their game streak will end. Entering Wednesday night, the Lightning had lost once in seven contests since they had been attending. Allanson has become a good luck charm around these parts.
These Stanley Cup playoffs have meant more to them than McQuillen can verbalize.
“I can’t find the words to describe the feelings that go with it,” McQuillen said. “It’s been a pleasure to watch and it’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life... He’s my best friend.”
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