In the books

My 2006-07 hounding season officially started today with a trip to the opening day of the Tampa Bay Lightning's training camp.

It was mostly skating tests (15 sessions of nearly net-to net three-lap drills) and physicals, but that didn't stop a handful of hounds, myself included, from adding to our collections. As usual, there were a few dealers, but that was to be expected.

At the end of day, I went home with another 30 autographs, including three pucks (shown above) from the Lightning's new goalie Marc Denis. I also added autographs from Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and general manager Jay Feaster to my mini Stanley Cup.

The best story of the day came courtesy of NHL Hall of Famer
Bill Barber, who serves as the team's director of player personnel. After flagging him down to sign, Barber rolled down his window and said: "You know, I'm not a player."

I didn't take the bait. "Yeah, you're not a player now, but you were a helluva one back in the 1970s. You beat my Sabres for the Cup back in 1975."

Other notable signees were new Lightning captain Tim Taylor (four cards), defenseman Dan Boyle (four cards), goalie Sean Burke (four cards), who wasn't on the ice because of a sore back, second-year defenseman Paul Ranger (Springfield Falcons and Oshawa Generals pucks) and goaltending prospect Karri Ramo (a cheap skate card). Brad Richards didn't stop to sign, despite only six people waiting.

For the record, defenseman Mike Egener signed the first items (three cards) of the season.

I'm heading back on Friday, but will be taking Saturday off. Stay tuned.

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