Tampa Bay Lightning, Laser Spine Institute Are ‘Sticking It to Hunger’

Guest Post by Give & Grub

The Tampa Bay Lightning bring high-energy speed and skill to the arena whenever they play, and their level of motivation on the ice makes them a powerful force to be reckoned with. Outside of the arena, however, they’re applying that force toward a very different motivation—to win the fight against hunger in their community.

In partnership with Laser Spine Institute, the Tampa Bay Lightning – along with Feeding America Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries – are on a mission to reduce food insecurity in the community through the Give & Grub food truck project. The truck travels across the greater Tampa Bay area selling its gourmet food with a mission: for every menu item sold, Laser Spine Institute will donate a meal to a hungry child in the area.

The statistics on hunger in the Tampa Bay community are staggering. Here are some of the facts:

  • Over 16 percent of people in Tampa Bay live below poverty level
  • An estimated 700,000 people in West Central Florida go hungry every day according to Feeding America Tampa Bay, and 250,000 of those people are children
  • 37 percent of West Central Florida residents served by Feeding America Tampa Bay are children under 18 years of age

The collective goal of the Give & Grub food truck project is to give back 150,000 meals to those local children who need it most, and judging by the menu, it won’t be too hard.

Each delicious gourmet item crafted on its state-of-the-art truck is named after Lightning personnel and inspired by their most beloved foods. There’s the Hedman’s Steak Tacos, for example, named after Victor Hedman, and the Bishop Bowl, after goalie ‘Big Ben’ Bishop. The truck makes appearances at local events and during the lunch hour at regional office parks and at Tampa Bay Lightning games when the season kicks up again.

If eating good food for a great cause sounds like something you’d be interested in, join the Tampa Bay Lightning and Laser Spine Institute in their mission to ‘Stick it to Hunger,’ and visit the Give & Grub website to find out where the truck will be next.

Also, by sharing the hashtag #GiveAndGrub on your social media platform of choice, they’ll donate an additional meal to a family in need!


Sin Bin: The Washington Caps Bar That Isn’t and May Never Be

Last year, I was incredibly jealous reading the news that D.C. would finally get an official hockey bar of its own.

The Washington Post reported in February 2014 that Sin Bin Bar and Restaurant would open as a Caps-themed hangout at 1336 H St. NE in D.C., thanks to David McQuaid and Naveed Ashraf:

“Ultimately we’re going to be a Caps bar,” said McQuaid, a mid-30s D.C. native who, like Ashraf, is a Capitals fan. “We’ve had kind of mixed input on whether that’s a smart idea or not. … We did some nominal market research, and we were just thinking that if there’s any area that would support kind of a bottom-up effort for the Caps, it’d be H Street.”

Nothing online points to this place ever opening or still being in the process of opening. I’m going to try to drive by the address on Saturday to see what it is. It was first pegged for a June 2014 opening according to published reports then November 2014…then…?

From my experience covering retail and restaurants, this ain’t happening. At least not at that location. Photos on blogs showed renovation work being done but there’s a lot of work to be done after the interior and exterior shell is touched up.

The bar’s liquor license was protested but ultimately approved in March 2014 after a settlement, according to public documents. It’s possible that the owners found the settlement too restrictive despite agreeing to the terms and decided to ditch the plan. I’m not sure how well you can control crowd noise on a rooftop bar area that’s operating until midnight on the weekends and how profitable that would be considering it would be blocked off before closing time.

There are bars to watch hockey but there are no hockey bars in D.C. The Greene Turtle at the Verizon Center caters to all and the Chinatown bars are an everyman’s place, in certain situation an every douchebag’s place.

First of all, do you count Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken as a hockey hangout because it’s owned by Jeff Halpern? The menu rivals some items found at Krustyland at Universal Studios. (I see you Lard Lad Donuts and Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches.) Because it doesn’t feature an abundance of hockey memorabilia, or dozens of flat screen TVs or a bar, no.

Could we make this a thing regardless? Because Caps fans are quirky enough, sure. And if Halpern doesn’t have a donut sandwich called the Schoenfeld and Koharski, he is missing out on some menu marketing that writes itself.

Virginia has a hockey-themed bar called Bugsy’s Pizza in Old Town Alexandria, as the Post inserted at the end of its story but there’s nothing actually in D.C., or on the way in Maryland that I know of. At least it’s owned by a former Cap, Brian “Bugsy” Watson.

There’s no way I’d go to Bugsy’s pre- or post-game because it’s out of the way for me and half the Caps fans. (Still, I need to go there regardless.) Riding the Red Line from Shady Grove, Sin Bin would still be pointless for me unless I would go to a game on the weekends. It’s two miles east of Verizon Center and 1.3 miles from the nearest Metro stop at Union Station. In city traffic, that’s still a 30-minute walk.

It’s a great idea but not the best location. It ought to come as close to Chinatown and Verizon Center possible.

Hell, if there was something in Rockville, I’d still go.

Tampa’s Hattricks Tavern is just down the street from Amalie Arena and if you couldn’t guess by its name, it’s absolute a hockey bar. Sure, Gator football will fill airtime when no hockey games are playing, but you won’t find University of Florida gear on the wall. It’s all hockey. There used to be a bar called The Luxury Box in front of Amalie Arena but that shuttered after the lockout and is now an impressive open-air bar with shipping containers called Ferg’s Live.

Brandon Ice Sports Forum has a hockey bar inside of it, too, as an alternative, when open. In Bradenton and Sarasota, former minor league hockey player Tommy Denis and family own a Chicago-themed pizzeria called Joey D’s where the Blackhawks are predominately featured. He’s friends with Mike Peluso and has plenty of memorabilia and in his south Sarasota location, there’s a penalty box bar at the entrance.

Anyway, Russian Machine Never Breaks reported later last summer that Sin Bin would open in November and the general manager needed some ideas.

The manager, Chris Conner, seemed to never get to implement those ideas. On December 5, 2014, he tweeted “I need a job! Someone hire me!!!!”

Tweets from the past few months included showing off his pot collection thanks to the decriminalized marijuana laws in D.C. Not judging, just showing that the feed isn’t filled with Sin Bin Coming Soon tweets.

I reached out to Chris on Twitter asking what happened and will update if he responds. I can’t find reliable contact information for the developers/owners either. Ashraf at least appears to be an active real estate owner from online records.

[Update: Conner confirmed Sin Bin never opened: “nope kinda sucks.” Still would be interested in the whole story.]

At this point, I ask Caps fans and bartrepreneurs to huddle together and open a proper Caps bar once and for all in D.C. or Maryland.

What would you name it? Unleash the Beery? Weagle’s Pub and Grill? Clutch and Grab Bag?

And what should be on the menu? Bonzai Burgers? Zilla Ziti? Dad’s Swedish Meatballs?

Your call. Let’s hear it!

That didn’t go quite as planned

I can take a hint from the universe.

Unfortunately the nudge didn’t come until the first period of Game 6.

OK, maybe that was actually the first period of Game 5 when Ben Bishop made a bonehead play leading to an empty net goal by Patrick Sharp. I already booked my flight before that game. It was too late.

As I waited in the terminal at the Hagerstown Regional Airport, I watched the first period and a half of Game 6. My flight was already delayed by two hours. There was no way I’d make it for any watch party and Amalie Arena already announced they weren’t letting anymore people through the doors.

Steven Stamkos dashed in on a breakaway and didn’t have enough moves to beat Corey Crawford. What was worse was that when he couldn’t coax himself to corral the puck, back up and roof it. He was too in-tight and just flubbed it against the pad.

It was done by then and the score was still 0-0.

Just before the plane lifted off the runway, I checked the score one last time. 0-1 Blackhawks in the second.

The WiFi-less flight left me wondering what is happening. As soon as we touched down in St. Petersburg, the alerts popped up. Blackhawks are Stanley Cup Champions. Duncan Keith is Conn Smythe Winner. Ben Bishop has a torn groin. Tyler Johnson has a broken wrist. And Tampa Bay had shattered dreams.

Health and luck are big parts of winning a championship and when you’re battling a two-time Cup champion, so is experience.

There’s not much I would change on the Lightning’s end. I would have isolated the team in a hotel at home, adjusted the power play with personnel and shuffled the lines more.

But most of all, I would have found a way to take players to the box. There wasn’t anything of significance between the whistles. A certain amount of gamesmanship was missing not having a fourth line player taking Toews are Kane to the box for roughing for two minutes.

There wasn’t enough nasty to warrant a fight. We weren’t even in the same galaxy of having a Lecavalier-Iginla type bout. I enjoyed the frenetic pace but there wasn’t enough boom with the pow.

A Stamkos-Toews fight would have absolutely turned the series even if Stamkos would have lost.

Next year, the Bolts will be filled with more skill and speed. Vlad Namestnikov is likely to be here full-time while Brenden Morrow coming back is iffy. Jon Drouin will see more ice time, too, but God help us if he gets gritty. We’re all just hoping for five more pounds of muscle.

The blueline is pretty gritty and no matter who steps in from within the organization, that won’t change.

Aside from all the black-and-blue business, the Lightning need to get Stamkos a winger. Maybe his defensive play improved without having an elite passer like Marty St. Louis by his side. Who knows. It didn’t look like Drouin and Stamkos clicked right away but they weren’t lined up much either in practice. He could be the answer.

Things were starting to click with Valteri Filpulla and Alex Killorn but more so for the other two players. It opened up more opportunities for Stamkos but he couldn’t bury them yet, it lumped two of the better centermen on one line.

Stamkos-Killorn-Callahan was Stammer’s most frequent line during the regular season while Callahan-Filpulla-Stamkos was the second most.  Did wonders for Ryan Callahan tying a career high in points being in a Mike Knuble-like situation but you still need one more finesse player on that line. In most cases that was Fil, but he needs to help spread out the offense on the other lines.

Something’s gotta give and we have the offseason to dream what it’s going to be.

Then the regular to test it out. And the playoffs where things better be damned solidified and perfected.

See you soon Tampa

If my flight doesn’t get delayed anymore, I’ll probably be in a St. Pete watering hole catching the conclusion of Game 6.

I’m going to be glued to my iPad on the plane watching the Lightning preventing an early end to the season so I can be part of something special: Game 7 in Tampa for the Stanley Cup.

I don’t want a touchdown at PIE to lead to a letdown when I hit the road to find the nearest TV. Hell, that just mean going over to the Clearwater Ice Arena just to see the end of the game. 

Tampa Bay doesn’t deserve disappointment on the national stage. The city and region, frankly have been resilient over the last six years, watching home values finally climb back after a nasty housing collapse. Seeing hope being built from Channelside, north to a new ice rink complex in Wesley Chapel, bustling retail and amateur sports boom in Sarasota to the south and craft beer breweries bubbling up in every neighborhood in between. 

Tampa didn’t arrive in 2004. Metaphorically, that championship crowned a race to the top by everyone chasing the dollar before the party came crashing down hard. It’s appropriate that the lockout wiped away the following season. And it only got worse in terms of diminishing results for the Lightning to a point where new ownership came in to make it seemed like Florida Man was running the team’s news ticker.

Now, you have everything in place that makes Tampa an exciting hockey market, place to live and work with hopefully a fully realized arena district.

I owe it to the Lightning for making hockey exciting for me again. When I moved away from Maryland, my frustration with the Caps were at an all-time high. I watched a Lightning team in transition that reminded me a lot of the Caps when Glen Hanlon was writing his own pink slip as George McPhee stocked the organization with enough talent to win two Calder Cups in Hershey in short time thanks to an up-and-coming coach who could coach goals to pour out of his roster. 
Guy Boucher was in a similar position with a defensive system that also grew old and in came Calder Cup prospects and eventually Jon Cooper. The key difference is that Cooper quickly learned he needed defensive adjustments and having a veteran of an associate coach like Rick Bowness sped up that learning curve as well as having guys from Andreychuck to  Yzerman supporting the organization.

I don’t have tickets for Game 7, nor could I afford them. Would I do anything to get in Amalie Arena for free? Of course but being in the streets of Tampa to celebrate, to be in the moment is all I’m asking for. 

Thats all we should ever want, too: 

Be in the moment. Be in the clouds.

Be the thunder.