The Tampa Tribune details how with the Lightning’s home opener shut down due to the NHL lockout, Tampa Bay took its charity program on the road.
The Lightning were supposed to open their home schedule Tuesday night against the New York Islanders. But with the league in the middle of a labor disruption that has canceled games through Oct. 24, the Forum sat empty and quiet on what should have been an exciting start to a season full of promise after a summer spent rebuilding the roster.
An element that became a staple at all home games last season was honoring a community hero during the first period. The program was started last season by Vinik and his wife, Penny, and granted a $50,000 award to a local hero that would go toward a local charity.
Even with no home games to be played for at least a month, the program will continue as planned. For each scheduled home game, a local individual will be selected for the award. Instead of making the presentation in the arena, the team and Vinik will visit the individual’s charity.
On Tuesday, that was the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater to recognize Bruce Fyfe, who was presented a Lightning jersey and a $50,000 award.
Fyfe, who has served as a member of the board of HEP since 1992, will use $40,000 toward the Homeless Emergency Project that provides housing for homeless military veterans as well as meals and counseling. The remaining $10,000 will be awarded to Morton Plant Mease Hospital to support free mammograms for women.
Suspending the community hero program was never a thought for Vinik with hockey locked out.
“This is about doing the right thing,” Vinik said. “We are going to do it every day that there is a game. This is very important to the Lightning, my wife and myself and this whole region.”