SUNRISE — Pete Heidrich and son Theodore wore their Lightning fandom in bright Miami Vice colors before today’s NHL All-Star Game in south Florida.
About three hours before game time, the pair walked around the outside of FLA Live Arena, clad in All-Star jerseys of their favorite Lightning players, throwbacks to the design used through the mid-1990s. Pete wore a Nikita Kucherov jersey, while Theodore chose Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Lightning season-ticket holders the past seven seasons, they attended the All-Star Game festivities in Tampa in 2018. They loved the atmosphere of that event, and since this year’s game was just a few hours away, they went in on tickets to attend.
“Really pretty much since I was probably 5 or 6 years old, my parents were taking me to games in Detroit,” said Pete Heidrich, a Land O’ Lakes resident. “So there’s been a long history and heritage of hockey in my family. So just being a fan of the game, it’s exciting to see all the players playing together. But obviously we want to see Kucherov and Vasilevskiy, also.”
But after experiencing a sold-out Amalie Arena for the skills competition five years ago, they were a little disappointed with the atmosphere in Sunrise.
“It was much more intense in Tampa,” said Pete Heidrich. “The fan base is a lot more solid than they are down here. I was disappointed yesterday that it wasn’t really a sellout for the skills competition. I was a little surprised because that’s not the way it was in Tampa a number of years ago. ... It seemed very quiet and subdued.”
The Panthers fan-heavy crowd on Friday night did boo both Vasilevskiy and Kucherov as they were introduced; despite the differences in the two Florida hockey markets, the cross-state rivalry is alive and well.
“It was clear they did not like (the Lightning),” Theodore said.
The Heidrichs are a Lightning fan success story, a family that moved to the Tampa Bay area from up north 13 years ago and adopted the Lightning as their team. They first started attending games to watch the Red Wings.
It didn’t hurt that Steve Yzerman, their favorite player with Detroit, became the Lightning’s general manager and built the team that eventually won back-to-back Stanley Cups and is coming off three straight Cup final appearances.
“Seeing (Yzerman) finally become a general manager, we wanted to see what he was going to do,” Theodore said. “And it just happened to be when we were in Tampa and he was the GM of Tampa and the team that he built that he handed off to Julien BriseBois has been absolutely incredible. So seeing his trajectory from being the captain to the Red Wings to now a general manager made sense for us to become fans.”
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