Tampa Bay Lightning program energizes future hockey players, fans.
Tara Elementary School second grader Terrance Bell had his work cut out for him as he held a hockey stick with both hands and attempted to guide a red ball through cones Jan. 31.
Bell normally plays soccer, but he did not mind the change of sports. After all, it is not often the Tampa Bay Lightning sends a crew of street hockey instructors to your school.
Bell was one of 475 second- through fifth-grade students who learned the basics of stick handling before participating in scrimmages thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Build the Thunder Program. The program travels across Florida, visiting public schools and introducing students the sport through instruction, scrimmage games and coaching by a Lightning alumni player — in this case, Canadian goal keeper Mathieu Garon.
“It’s hard, but I like it,” Bell said.
At the end of lessons, each student took home a hockey stick and ball of their own. Bell said he planned to play with his older sister, 8-year-old Sahara Bell.
Tara physical education teacher Amy Teta said the most frequently asked question of the day by students was “Can the Lightning come every Friday?”
She said the school already offers students opportunities to learn street hockey for younger students, but she hopes to offer it more. The Lightning left goals and hockey sticks for the school to use.
The Build the Thunder program, now in its fifth year, last came to Tara Elementary four years ago.