TAMPA - A line formed outside the Tampa Bay Times forum before the sun even rose. Anxious Tampa Bay Lightning fans couldn't wait to get the hockey season started.
"NFL is definitely not the same as hockey. I've missed the guys, I've missed all the games, going to the games and the appreciation," said Mara Utterback.
The season will be a short one this year. 48 games will be played instead of the regular season of 82 games, but fans said it's better than nothing.
" I've been very sad and depressed. The lightning hockey team is amazing here and it's really good to have them back," said Avis Hitchcock.
Before training camp began, the team held fan fest. Fans got to meet players and offer their encouragement before the season starts.
"Good luck this year we're so excited you are back," a fan said after getting a jersey signed.
Lightning player Teddy Purcell said he is just as excited to get back on the ice.
"It almost feels like my first training camp. I mean every training camp you feel the nerves and such but this one is that much more different being it's my first lockout," he said.
Just like the fans, Purcell said waiting for the lockout to end was the hardest part.
"You don't know when the season is going to start. It was hard to mentally stay sane and positive, but that is part of being an athlete, and hopefully we can learn from that experience," Purcell said.
The Lightning will start their season Saturday night, when they host the Washington Capitals.
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