TAMPA, Fla. — A lot of people refer to professional athletes as heroes, but if you ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, the real heroes are our teachers, first responders and medical professionals in the community. So, the Lightning created a Heroes Hockey League just for them.
“We’ve got teachers, we’ve got former active military, we’ve got police, we’ve got fire fighters and we’ve got medical so we are seeing people who are making a difference in the community every single day,” chiropractic neurologist Vasilios Nenos said.
These men and women are used to rooting for the Lightning, but in this league, it’s the team who are rooting for them.
“Those people especially the last couple of years I feel like we relied on them even more,” Mathieu Garon said.
Former Lightning goaltender and Heroes Hockey League coach, Garon said it’s an honor to share the ice with these players.
“It’s fun because they come for the first time, they have a hard time skating, and we work on skating and stopping, passing, and they get better every week,” Garon said.
For school resource officer Alexander Guzman, it’s a nice stress reliever take off the police uniform and put on a hockey jersey.
“It means pretty much everything to me, this is pretty much my get-away, it has become a passion for me,” Guzman said.
While 65-year-old science teacher Barry LeClair is proving you’re never too old to lace them up.
“Grandpa, and pa and grandkids, all playing the same time,” LeClair, who can still score goals with the best of them, said.
However, he said watching the real Lightning players out on the ice just seems unreal to him.
“I definitely have an appreciation for the season that they play,” LeClair said. “I was getting tired just practicing and playing one game.”
These heroes said the best part about the league is the bond they are building among teammates. You can call it lightning in a bottle.
“I work at a bunch of hospitals so I see a few people at work and then I see them here in the locker room,” surgical neurophysiologist Melissa Larson said. “I see them here on the ice and I see them out in the community and it’s great because we joke around, we build friendships”
These players couldn’t be more proud to carry on the Lighting’s winning tradition in their own heroic way.
“Its like I’m chasing the cup, my own cup, my own dream, my own passion behind their trail they are leaving for us,” Guzman said.