Lightning fans enjoy the All-Star Game, but miss the Tampa atmosphere

SUNRISE — Pete Heidrich and his son Theodore rocked their Lightning fans in bright Miami Vice colors ahead of today’s NHL All-Star Game in South Florida.

About three hours before game time, the pair walked outside FLA Live Arena, dressed in All-Star jerseys of their favorite Lightning players, throwbacks to the design worn in the mid-1990s. Pete wore a Nikita Kucherov, while Theodore chose Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Lightning season ticket holders for the past seven seasons, they attended the All-Star Game festivities in Tampa in 2018. They loved the atmosphere of that event, and since this year’s game was just hours away, they purchased tickets to attend. .

“Really since I was probably 5 or 6 years old, my parents would take me to games in Detroit,” said Pete Heidrich, a Land O’Lakes resident. “So there has been a long history and heritage of hockey in my family. So being a fan of the game, it’s exciting to see all the players playing together. But obviously we also want to see Kucherov and Vasilevskiy.”

But after experiencing a sold-out Amalie Arena skills competition five years ago, they were a little disappointed with the atmosphere at Sunrise.

“It was a lot more intense in Tampa,” Pete Heidrich said. “The fan base is much stronger than it is here. I was disappointed yesterday that the skill competition wasn’t actually sold out. I was a bit surprised because it wasn’t like that in Tampa a few years ago. … He seemed very calm and subdued.”

Wearing Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov's All-Star Game jerseys, Lightning fans Theodore and Pete Heidrich walk outside the FLA Live Arena three hours before kick-off on Sunday.
Wearing Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov’s All-Star Game jerseys, Lightning fans Theodore and Pete Heidrich walk outside the FLA Live Arena three hours before kick-off on Sunday. [ EDUARDO A. ENCINA | Tampa Bay Times ]

The crowd of Panthers fans on Friday night booed both Vasilevskiy and Kucherov when they were introduced; Despite the differences in the two Florida hockey markets, the interstate rivalry is alive and well.

“It was clear they didn’t like (the Lightning),” Theodore said.

The Heidrichs are a Lightning fan success story, a family that moved to the Tampa Bay area from the north 13 years ago and adopted the Lightning as their team. They first started attending games to see the Red Wings.

It didn’t hurt that Steve Yzerman, his favorite player with Detroit, became the Lightning’s general manager and built the team that ultimately won back-to-back Stanley Cups and is coming off three straight Cup Final appearances.

“Seeing (Yzerman) finally become general manager, we wanted to see what he was going to do,” Theodore said. “And it just so happened that when we were in Tampa and he was the general manager of Tampa and the team that he built and that he delivered to Julien BriseBois has been absolutely incredible. So to see the trajectory of him from being the captain of the Red Wings to now a general manager made sense for us to become fans.”

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