TAMPA, Fla. - Nikita Alekseev was a first-round draft pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000. Now, 20 years later, he’s just as proud to put on a different kind of uniform with Tampa Fire Rescue.
“Tampa gave me everything and I’m giving back to the community,” says Alekseev, now 38. “I grew up here. They made me a man.”
Alekseev attacked two years of EMT and fire training like he would a long hockey season.
“In any shape you are in, it’s going to take a toll on your body. You’ve got to be prepared physically and mentally, especially,” he says.
Is it harder than hockey? Alekseev would say yes.
“I want to do a good job and I want to do 100% of what I do, so its always going to be hard for me whatever I do,” says the Murmansk, Russia native.
He graduated from fire training last Friday and will report for duty Wednesday at Fire Station 18 near 30th and Hillsborough Avenue.
It’s a long way from his hometown in Russia, but not as far as you may think from playing hockey. He enjoys being on a team. Firefighters live and work together.
“In hard times and good times. It’s kind of like your second family basically,” says Alekseev.
At 6-feet, 6-inches tall, he stands out, but he also fits in.
“He just wanted to be a firefighter,” says Captain Dan Quatrino, his training officer. "He didn’t want to be known as Nikita Alekseev, the hockey player. He wanted to be a Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter.”
Alekseev says he misses the camaraderie more than playing hockey, but as the Lightning competes for the Stanley Cup, they’ll have a unique fan at Fire Station 18.
“That’s my boys. That’s my family,” says Alekseev. “Now I have two families.”
Families of both fire and ice for this hockey star turned firefighter.