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Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning, Zamuner grew up together

Published:   |   Updated: April 14, 2013 at 12:41 PM
WASHINGTON -

The Lightning’s 20th anniversary season has been a flop on the ice. After a promising start, the team has underachieved and again will leave a devoted fan base wondering when it will see postseason action again.

But one aspect of the celebration that has worked out well is the recognition of the top 20 hockey personnel members in franchise history. While the lockout-shortened season has forced the player/coach/general manager recognition and the top moments in franchise history to be condensed — the original plan was to have either one player or one moment highlighted each game instead of one of each — seeing some of the players come back has been a treat.

From Daren Puppa and Brian Bradley to Fredrik Modin and Pavel Kubina, it’s nice to see some of the short history of this team brought back to be recognized, not only for those who have been fans of the team since its inception but for some of the new fans to get a taste of some of the franchise’s trailblazers.

Of all those who have been brought back to town to be recognized, it was a treat to see Rob Zamuner back in the building and to see the warm welcome he received on Tuesday. An original member of the Lightning who played that 1992-93 season inside the Expo Hall at the State Fairgrounds, Zamuner spent seven seasons in a Tampa Bay uniform, until he was sent to Ottawa in 1999.

During those formative years for the franchise, Zamuner epitomized what those Lightning teams were about — a hard-working group of cast-offs who formed an expansion franchise and helped sell the game to a non-traditional market.

For me, it was a treat to watch Zamuner — cut loose by the New York Rangers at the age of 22 — rely on his strong work ethic and parlay it into a long career that lasted 798 games with three organizations including Tampa Bay.

Never the fastest player, never the most skilled and never a 20-goal scorer, Zamuner still stood out with that hard-hat mentality. That came shining through in his work as a penalty killer, where he notched 14 shorthanded goals and 25 shorthanded points during his time with the Lightning. His 14 shorthanded goals still rank second in team history behind Marty St. Louis, who has 28, and his 84 goals in a Tampa Bay uniform rank 10th in franchise history.

His play captured the attention of the scouting staff for Team Canada, as he was a member of the 1998 Olympic team, the first Winter Games to include NHL players. That team was stacked with Wayne Gretzky, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Ray Bourque, Brendan Shanahan and current Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman among many All-Stars.

“That was pretty overwhelming and a bit of a shock,’’ Zamuner said of his inclusion on that team. “Obviously, they took me, not for my goal-scoring ability, but for the other parts of my game. And that was one of the highlights of my career.’’

During his time with Tampa Bay, Zamuner created many early highlights for a new franchise. And though he has long since moved on from the game on the ice — he currently works with the National Hockey League Players Association and sat in on many of the collective bargaining agreement sessions during the lockout — he will always have a special connection with the Lightning. Even during the 2003-04 Lightning championship season, when he played for Boston, he privately was pulling for Tampa Bay after the Bruins were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

“For me, Tampa, I played here for seven years and I grew up here, in a sense,’’ Zamuner said. “I always feel, when someone asks me where I played, Tampa is always where I say first. I still have some fond memories of here.’’

It’s nice to see that the fans still have that connection to Zamuner, as well.

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