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Lightning

It's a passport to a dream

ON THE GLASS: Behind the glass at the St. Pete Times Forum, fathers and sons watch the Lightning and share moments that can last a lifetime.

By JEFF HARRINGTON
Published May 27, 2004

photo
[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
As the Lightning has a tough time on the ice Tuesday, fans in the choice seats have a memory-making experience.



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Two fathers. Two sons. Two different routes to four front-row, behind-the-glass seats to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning charge into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time ever.

For Mike Guarino and his 5-year-old son, Michael, there were no sweeter seats in the house for Tuesday's Game 1.

Section 101; Center ice; Their faces up against the glass wall behind the Lightning bench, directly behind their favorite player, Martin St. Louis.

The seats had a face value of $215 apiece; Guarino paid $1,200 for the pair through a broker he's used before.

"A significant amount of cash," he said, dressed in matching Lightning garb with his son. "It's worth it."

Guarino, a consultant in the food industry who lives in Weeki Wachee, had the same seats for one playoff game against the New York Islanders and two against the Flyers, including a glorious Game 7. The Game 7 tickets cost him $300 apiece through the same broker. He and his son left that showdown with a game puck and two practice pucks that were passed over the glass by St. Louis.

They were pumped for the finals' first game. "We were watching Miracle on Ice driving on the way down," Guarino said.

Just down the row, another father-son tandem were equally enthralled.

Greg Willsey and his 10-year-old son, Richard, had their vantage point courtesy of Willsey's boss at Merrill Lynch, Linda Marcelli.

Marcelli, managing director of Merrill's Tampa Bay area offices and a diehard Lightning fan, gave her four tickets to employees while she was on a trip to Italy.

Willsey immediately thought of bringing his son, a Lightning fan since he was 7. To watch the late-game playoffs on television, Richard has received special dispensation from his mom to stay up past his 8 p.m. bedtime.

His favorite player: St. Louis. "'Cause he's good," Richard says.

Willsey said Marcelli "likes to look after her employees" in sharing tickets for games she can't use.

"She'd like nothing better than to see Richard sitting in this seat cheering the team," he said.

Some of those with front-row seats didn't want to give their names or disclose what they paid for their tickets. Even some who got them for free were mysterious. "They're complimentary tickets, you might say," said Ronnie Wade, refusing to budge on his source. Along with his 17-year-old son, Austin, Wade got to the game nearly an hour and a half before the first puck was dropped.

For the Guarinos and Willseys, the sting of Tuesday night's loss was eased by a couple of special souvenirs to go with their front-row memories.

By the end of the game, the younger Mike Guarino clutched a hockey puck that had been tossed over the glass by St. Louis.

A similar highlight came for the Willseys before the game began. During the practice skate, a puck went flying their way. It was nabbed one-handed by a fan sitting in the second row, David Deltosto.

Deltosto gave the puck to Richard. "It was really nice," the elder Willsey said. "He said, "When I have a kid, I hope 10 years from now somebody does that for me."'

- Jeff Harrington can be reached at harrington@sptimes.com or 813 226-3407.

[Last modified May 27, 2004, 01:01:27]

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