TAMPA -- Lighting games always begin with sparks of excitement, but on a recent night, 10News aims to amp things up.
We spot a family sitting so high up in Amalie Arena space that the little boy's NASA shirt seems appropriate. So, we send 10News Sports Director Ryan Bass up to correct the situation.
“This is Joy to the Bay,” he explains to a father, his two sons, and a close family friend. “We’re going to surprise you guys and bring you down to some better seats.”
With the help of the Lightning, the group receives much better tickets and a walk down to seats just a few rows from the ice. “Amazing,” remarks 11-year-old Ayden Sabbag when he sees the new location. "I'm pretty much on the ice."
Turns out this is Ayden and his 5-year-old brother Brentley’s very first hockey game and they're in for a good one, as the Lightning take on the Islanders.
Their father Joe Sabbag serves in the Army at MacDill, so right along with hockey, the game brings lessons in patriotism. “Alright, good job buddy,” he says to Brentley, observing the boy’s hand over his heart during the National Anthem.
It isn't long before the Lightning score and Joe’s goal at this game is to pass on a family tradition. “Well, my dad played semi-pro up in Boston and he used to take me to games as best we could, so I wanted to get them into it also,” he says. “It’s exciting, it’s fast.”
But what happens off the ice is fun too. Here comes the ThunderBug delivering bags of swag and posing for a furry photo. And talk about making memories—a ride on the Fan Zam elicited screams from the kids as they zoom around the rink waving to the crowd.
“It’s very cool,” said Joe. “You made these guys’ day!”
“When you’re on the Zamboni it’s quite breathtaking,” explained Ayden. “But it’s also really cold.”
The Lightning eventually skate to a big 6 to 2 win, but the end of the game doesn't end this group's Joy to the Bay experience. There’s one more hockey highlight—a chance to meet forward Alex Killorn.
“You guys have a good time?” asked Killorn. “Yes sir!” responded Ayden.
Killorn put pen to paper and puck. The autographs will be a keepsake for the kids; a reminder of their very first game -- a night like no other.