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Fear close at hand for players

Members of the Lightning, several from other countries, are shaken by the attacks.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001


Members of the Lightning, several from other countries, are shaken by the attacks.

BRANDON -- Kevin Weekes never really liked getting on an airplane.

But after four hijackings sparked the horrendous terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, the Lightning goaltender is more nervous than ever about air travel.

"As far as flying commercially, no way," he said. "If I have to go different places to do different things, I'll drive."

Coach John Tortorella said he is pleased his players have remained focused at training camp during a very tumultuous time.

But he and his players made it obvious after Friday's workout at the Ice Sports Forum that the destruction and immense loss of life have left their marks.

On all of the players, regardless of nationality.

Defenseman Andrei Zyuzin said television replays of the attacks made him recall his disbelief when buildings were bombed in August in Moscow in his native Russia. He also considered what might happen when the United States seeks justice.

"It's like, holy s---, what is going on?" he said. "It's like a war is coming."

Defenseman Stan Neckar said he called his father in the Czech Republic after the attacks and heard a nervousness in his voice he never heard before.

Forward Jimmie Olvestad said his girlfriend was supposed to fly from Sweden to Tampa in two weeks for a visit but decided to put the trip on hold until things calm down.

Tortorella understands the nervousness:

"Everything is going to change here as far as how secure you feel.

"It was just such a calculated and systematic thing. It's always in the back of your mind. But you can't let it control you because that's another battle they have won."

It is apparent Lightning players and coaches will be fighting little battles within themselves for a while. The team uses chartered planes during road trips, so that erases many of the concerns about air travel.

And forward Tim Taylor said that with beefed-up airport security, "The safest time is to fly now than before it happened."

Still, the players know they are visible and play games that attract 20,000 or more. Weekes said it is not far-fetched to think someone could use such an occasion to make a violent statement.

"It's a point of concern," he said. "You just never know. You just never know in societal terms. This has been a whole different scale."

Weekes said his concerns will not stop him from doing his job.

"When we're physically playing or practicing, no," he said. "At the same time, these things for me will be deeply imbedded in my mind."

"I think it's shown in the last week anything can happen," left wing Fredrik Modin said. "But you can't walk around out there being nervous that stuff will happen. It's in the back of your head, but you have to try to get back to the normal life that we do."

Normal for Tortorella this week has been driving home after practice and turning on the television.

"I'm glued to the TV to see what's happening," he said.

What will happen Monday when the Lightning flies a chartered plane to Halifax, Nova Scotia? Or Tuesday when it plays its preseason opener against the Senators?

Probably nothing out of the ordinary, the players said. Yet, there always was a qualifier.

"You think about it," Neckar said of the unthinkable. "I've got a family now. I have a little girl. Of course you think about it."

"Flying private, I'm not really worried," center Brad Richards said. "Not to say I feel the safest right now, but it's good to know we have our own crew."

Zyuzin is counting on the ultimate power play.

"I believe in God," he said. "I hope he is going to save us and everything will be okay."

Lightning training camp

WHEN: The team practices at 9 this morning but generally starts at 10 a.m. daily through Sept. 25 except for Sunday (1 p.m. at Ice Palace), Thursday (off day), Sept. 22 (game in Houston) and Sept. 23 (noon). Schedule subject to change.

WHERE: Ice Sports Forum, Brandon. Take the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Faulkenberg Road exit near Brandon. Turn left on Faulkenberg and follow through the intersection at Adamo Drive. Turn right on the second street (Elizabeth) after Adamo.

ADMISSION: Practices are free and open to the public. A Sept. 26 scrimmage at the Ice Palace is open only to season-ticket holders.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE: Tuesday vs. Ottawa, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 6 p.m.; Wednesday vs. Columbus at Syracuse, N.Y., 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 22 vs. Washington at Houston, 8:30 p.m.; Sept. 28 vs. Florida at Ice Palace, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 29 at Florida, 7:30 p.m.

AUTOGRAPH TIPS: Players often sign after practices. Be prepared with pen and paper or photo to sign. Players will sign after Sept. 26 scrimmage.

TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (*non-roster invitees): A Camp: Left wings -- Nikita Alexeev, Dave Andreychuk, Gordie Dwyer, Fredrik Modin, Juha Ylonen. Centers -- Martin Cibak, Brian Holzinger, Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Vinny Prospal, Tim Taylor. Rights wings -- Matthew Barnaby, Ben Clymer, Jimmie Olvestad, Martin St. Louis, Jeff Nielsen*. Defensemen -- Mathieu Biron, Jassen Cullimore, Mike Jones, Pavel Kubina, Kristian Kudroc, Stan Neckar, Grant Ledyard, Nolan Pratt, Cory Sarich, Petr Svoboda, Andrei Zyuzin. Goaltenders -- Nikolai Khabibulin, Kevin Weekes.

B Camp: Left wings -- Dmitry Afanasenkov, Aaron Lobb, Kenton Smith, Ryan Tobler. Centers -- Johan Hagglund, Eric Schneider*, Jean-Francois Soucy, Thomas Ziegler. Right wings -- Evgeni Artukhin, Matt Elich, Sheldon Keefe, Gaetan Royer*, Brad Yeo*. Defensemen -- Henrik Bergfors, Aaron Gionet, Andreas Holmqvist, Kyle Kos, Mikko Kuparinen, Marek Priechodsky, Remi Royer*, Jeremy Van Hoof. Goaltenders -- Dieter Kochan, Evgeny Konstantinov, Michal Lanicek, Robert McVicar*. INFORMATION: Call (813) 301-6500.

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