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Lightning helps by hitting ice

A scrimmage at the Ice Palace raises $15,540 for the American Red Cross for disaster relief.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 17, 2001


TAMPA -- Lightning center Brian Holzinger doesn't usually sing when the national anthem is played before games.

But when the Star Spangled Banner came over the loudspeaker Sunday before Tampa Bay's scrimmage at the Ice Palace and 2,500 fans rose with one voice, Holzinger joined in, too.

"I looked around while the national anthem was going and saw some tears in people's eyes," he said.

From a practical standpoint, the scrimmage took the place of the two preseason games canceled because of the fallout from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

From an emotional standpoint it meant much more. It was a day to remember those who have suffered and those trying to help. It was a way for the Lightning and its fans to help as well.

Fans were asked to donate $5 to the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross for disaster relief. The Lightning said $15,540 was collected.

"It was great to see," said Holzinger, a Parma, Ohio, native who is one of three players at training camp from the United States. "It was exciting for us to play in front of our fans for a great cause."

"This is a fantastic day," said Steffen A. Strayer, a public affairs specialist for the Red Cross. "Not only are we grateful to the Lightning for putting on the scrimmage, just look at all the people who have turned out. It's important that as part of the mourning process we come out and say we are not going to stop, we are going to live."

While Holzinger sang, right wing Ben Clymer, from Edina, Minn., prayed. "I said a prayer for the people who perished and a prayer for the people who are working to save the lives they can," he said.

That also is the prayer of Gaspare Mistretta. The Riverview resident helped collect money at an Ice Palace entrance, but his mind was in Manhattan.

Mistretta said his nephew, 32-year-old Thomas Mingione, a New York firefighter who responded to the attacks at the World Trade Center, is missing. When Mistretta, a Brooklyn native, heard about the purpose of the scrimmage, he said he had to attend.

"He worked in a quiet neighborhood and wanted to get transferred to one with some action, and this is what happened," Mistretta said of his nephew. "It's hard to describe the feelings I have. You just want to do something where you can."

For some fans that meant holding American flags during the national anthem. A large one was pressed against the glass behind the penalty box.

For others, like Tampa resident Frances Fusco, it meant wearing red, white and blue.

"This brings people together for a common good," said Fusco, who is from Boston, the starting point for two of the hijacked planes used in the attacks. "The people of Tampa and the Tampa area have to normalize things, to go out and see some hockey and do it during a good cause. This is the right thing to do to support America."

Brandon resident Mike Brall agreed. The Brooklyn native said he worked 16 years in the World Trade Center as a bank administrator and was there during the 1993 bombing. He said he lost four friends in last week's disaster.

"Donating to the Red Cross is great and I love hockey. It's a great combination," Brall said. "A little solidarity for hockey fans with this tragedy."

That the Lightning played an entertaining scrimmage in which the white team beat the black 5-2 was a bonus.

For Clearwater residents Ted and Marion Kress, who moved from London, Ontario, 25 years ago and said they became United States citizens June 8, the bonus was a lighter mood.

"We needed to get away from the TV," Marion said. "It's terribly overwhelming."

For a few hours, it was less so.

"This was a way to give a little in a situation where a lot is needed," said Lightning coach John Tortorella, a Boston native.

Said Ned Kress: "No matter what happens in the world, people like sports. This shows people are together."

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