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My year inside the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Photo courtesy of Doug Spencer

120 Minutes. That is all that separated me from being part of a Stanley Cup Champion organization when I interned for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2014-15 season. It’s every hockey player’s dream to one-day hoist the Cup, but everyone knows the reality is that there are only a select few who ever get a chance to play for it.

I ‘d love to get back into hockey once I’m done my degree. It was a good fit for me and I loved the fast-paced environment. Being part of such a successful team this year also helped. It made going into the rink every day that much more fun..

Being able to make it to the Final during my first year within an NHL organization was incredible. The atmosphere that gripped the city was electric. It is something I’ll never forget and I owe it all to a game of ball hockey. Seriously.

Four years ago, I was playing in a charity ball hockey tournament back home near Hamilton, Ontario. Our team had an extra spot so the organizers asked us if we could take on another player. They said he was pretty good so we happily obliged — little did I know that this simple decision would set in motion my journey to the NHL.

During the tournament, Trevor and I became good friends and kept in contact af- terwards. As a co-op student I was being encouraged to look into doing an international work term so I emailed Trevor, who is the public relations coordinator in Tampa Bay to see if the Lightning had any openings, as I hoped to avoid another Ottawa winter. Once all the paperwork was sorted out, I was off to sunny Tampa, Florida, for the fall 2014 and winter of 2015, about to have one of the greatest experiences of my life.

As you can imagine it was a pretty big change moving from my previous co-op at Statistics Canada to the fast-paced environment of being a public relations intern at a professional sports team. Not to mention the fact I would have to buy more shorts to survive out in Florida. To prepare myself, I learned as much as possible about the team and players. I didn’t know what to expect so I tried to keep my mind as open as possible.

Throughout my work term, I assisted in writing press releases, two weekly articles featuring our team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate and a standout prospect, as well as announce goals and penalties on the press box PA system during games. We also would coordinate player interviews and assist any attending media while they were at Amalie Arena.

The experience I gained was priceless. It opened the door into the professional sports industry for me and allowed me to vastly increase my professional network. While I’m not a public relations major, I was able to use many transferable skills from my political science studies, to help me succeed. It helped that I was able to pull direct knowledge from a political research course when conducting interviews with AHL and Canadian Hockey League general managers and coaches.

Looking back on my year with the Lightning a few things stand out for me. Obviously being at the Stanley Cup Final was incredible. However, I think the craziest thing that happened during my work term was being able to play on the rink against a few NHL alumni during staff hockey games. Looking over and seeing Mathieu Garon as your line mate as you face-off against Dimitri Afanasenkov, Vinny Prospal, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Nikita Alexeev with Dave Andreychuk between the pipes was pretty cool.

Coming back to the U of O helped me to put everything into perspective, not everyone has a chance to be part of a team that gets to the Final, or be there at all.

For one full season, I got to write my own chapter in the NHL and be a part of one of the best professional sports organizations in the world, and it was an experience I will truly never forget.