All-Stars praise Tampa for fantastic weekend

By Rishi Barran, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2018

There's no doubt about it: NHL All-Star weekend was a big hit in Tampa.

Fans got the ultimate interactive experience outside of Amalie Arena and witnessed hockey at its best inside the building.

Tampa Bay Lightning players got to face the best in the world on their home ice and electrified the sell-out crowd that packed the seats.

But what did the game's biggest stars from all over the world think about the experience?

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"First and foremost, the crowd was awesome," Sabres All-Star center Jack Eichel said.  "The atmosphere in the building and all the fans, the red carpet, it was all pretty amazing.  I think just the support of everyone in the city, it goes a long way."

"The building was in great shape, the ice was great," Blackhawks All-Star forward Patrick Kane said.  "They have some great performers down here, so Tampa did a really good job."

Some players found that combining the All-Star festivities with one of the highest-attended events in the nation, Gasparilla, was a great idea.

"I enjoyed seeing all the pirates," Stars All-Star center Tyler Seguin said.  "That's going to be a found memory of mine for sure, and the Gasparilla stuff.  So I've been to a bunch of these now, and this one's going to be up there for sure."

While Tampa doesn't have as deep of a history in the sport as some long-time hockey cities, the players say they find it to be one of the most enjoyable stops on the road.

"I think it's huge, just being from Canada where it's a little cold," Jets All-Star goalie Connor Hellebuyck said.  "You can come down and put your t-shirts on, get a tan, and warm up a bit.  This city has embraced hockey and and it's really cool."

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, a first-time All-Star, says Tampa did everything right.

"It's great," Pietrangelo said.  "The hotel's been great, too.  It's been convenient, and (has a great) lounge, and they've done a great job taking care of us."

"Tampa's a great city," Blues All-Star forward Brayden Schenn said.  "Everyone loves obviously coming to Florida and playing in a sold-out building during the regular season every night.  So it's a fun thing to be a part of and a great city."

"It was great," Avalanche All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said.  "It's only my second one, so it's tough to me to compare.  I'm not a grizzled vet or anything.  But everything went smooth and there are great facilities here, so it's been fun."

Having the entire world of hockey here in this arena and in this community was amazing for everyone in the Lightning organization.

The Stanley Cup was in town, too, and the Lightning hope to have a similar celebration in June with the entire sport returning for more.

Only this time, the Bolts hope they'll be hoisting the Cup.