Why Yanni Gourde became one of the most popular Lightning players – The Athletic

TAMPA, Fla. – Every time another Yanni Gourde moment flashed on the Amalie Arena’s video panel on Friday night, the crowd got louder.

Gourde’s first NHL goal, at the time he was wearing the number 65.

The hits.

His Game 7 winner against the Islanders, one of the biggest goals in franchise history.

Double fisting beer at the boat parade.

Lifting the Stanley Cup (twice).

The standing ovations from the sold-out crowd continued as Gourde jumped off the bench, clapped and waved to the fans. Then they started singing his name. “YAN-NI! “YAN-NI!” Even for longtime Lightning watchers, this was the loudest reception a returning gamer has ever received.

More than Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis or the former face of the franchise Vinny Lecavalier.

“Honestly, we had the chills on the bench,” said Lightning striker Ross Colton.

“I hope the camera hasn’t panned me,” said coach Jon Cooper. “My eyes were a little watery. It’s as loud an ovation as you can get from a guest player walking in. Show you what a darling he was for us. “

There have been players with bigger names who have come back, more talented players. But Gourde was different and bonded with fans in ways that not many have over the years.

It was due to his work ethic and drive, “The Little Engine that Could.

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