Hangar turned hockey rink: Tampa Bay Lightning, MacDill service members play hockey

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Scott Warner
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Two former Tampa Bay Lightning players, Mathieu Garon and Ruslan Fedotenko, visited MacDill Air Force Base alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning Street Team and other volunteers to give hockey lessons and show appreciation for service members, Oct. 25, 2018.

During the event, 48 joint and Total Force service members participated in two street hockey clinics and received a “Hockey 101” lesson from Fedotenko.

“I think this hockey event is special because it involves integration between the Lightning organization and Team MacDill,” said Col. Douglas Stouffer, 927th Air Refueling Wing Commander. “It reflects the importance of the military to our community for the type of work we do.”

Since the Tampa Bay Lightning's inception in 1992, the strong community partnership with Team MacDill continues to thrive.  

“The Tampa Bay Lightning organization has always had a great relationship with MacDill and its military service members,” said Dan Williams, the partnership activation account executive for the Lightning. “This event’s purpose is to educate our community on hockey while also giving back to military service members who serve our country so selflessly and tirelessly.”

Starting in 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, and NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) invested more than $6 million to grow the game of hockey and teach life skills lessons to Tampa Bay's young people and community through street hockey over the span of five years.

“These types of events help us gauge interest in our community while also promoting the sport of hockey,” said Williams. “As part of an ongoing partnership, this is something we hope we can do more consistently and frequently with MacDill.”

After the two MacDill teams played street hockey, the participants received a hockey fundamentals lesson and explanations on hockey penalties from former Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Ruslan Fedotenko, a legend who was a catalyst to the team’s first Stanley Cup win in the 2003-2004 season.

“I think this is a great event because we want to extend our hand to help our military members,” said Fedotenko, who is also an honorary commander with the 927th ARW. “I love coming to MacDill and it means a lot to me to make MacDill feel like they’re a part of the Tampa Bay community.”

Fedotenko also spoke about how he had to leave his home country of Ukraine because of the current war there, which forced his hockey retirement, but spoke about his appreciation for the U.S. military and the protection it provides for its citizens.

Furthermore, the Lightning organization also donated a hockey stick and ball to every MacDill member who participated in the event.

 “We hope military service members can play street hockey as a reprieve from their hard work,” said Williams. “We were beyond excited for this event as a foundation for bigger and better things to come.”