Tampa Bay Lightning

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Lightning Timeline


Tampa Bay Lightning Team Formation

According to former NHL president Gil Stein, another factor was that the Karmanos/Rutherford group wanted to pay only $29 million before starting play, while the Esposito group was one of the few willing to pay the entire $50 million expansion fee up front.

After being awarded the franchise, the team's management brought in star power before they had any players. Phil Esposito installed himself as president and general manager, while Tony became chief scout. Terry Crisp, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they won two Stanley Cups in the mid-1970s, and coached the Calgary Flames to a Cup in 1989, was tapped as the first head coach. The team was named the Lightning, after Tampa's status as the "Lightning Capital of North America."


The following season saw the Lightning shift to the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, as well as move into the Florida Suncoast Dome a building originally designed for baseball in St. Petersburg, which was reconfigured for hockey and renamed "the Thunderdome". The stadium, built originally as the Florida Suncoast Dome, was first used in an attempt to entice the Chicago White Sox to relocate if a new ballpark were not built to replace the aging Comiskey Park. The governments of Chicago and Illinois eventually agreed to build a New Comiskey Park now known as U.S. Cellular Field in 1989.

Art Williams Ownership

Forbes wrote an article in late 1997 calling the Lightning a financial nightmare, with a debt equal to a staggering 236% of its value the highest of any major North American sports franchise. Even though the Ice Palace was built for hockey and the Lightning were the only major tenant, Forbes called the team's deal with the arena a lemon since it would not result in much revenue for 30 years. It was also behind on paying state sales taxes and federal payroll taxes.

Finally, in 1998, Kokusai Green found a buyer. Although Detroit Pistons owner William Davidson was thought to be the frontrunner, the buyer turned out to be insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams, who previously owned the Birmingham Barracudas of the Canadian Football League. Williams walked into a difficult financial situation; the team was $102 million in debt at the time the sale closed. Like the Japanese, Williams knew very little about hockey. However, he was very visible and outspoken, and immediately pumped an additional $6 million into the team's payroll to turn it around. He also cleared most of the massive debt left over from the Kokusai Green era. After taking control, Williams publicly assured the Espositos that their jobs were safe, only to fire them two games into the 1998 - 1999 season. He then gave Demers complete control of hockey operations as both coach and general manager. Despite the clouds still hovering over the franchise, the Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, a player who would be a cornerstone of the team for years to come.

Stanley Cup Winners

Stanley Cup - 2004
The 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs for the National Hockey League began on April 7, 2004, following the 2003 - 2004 regular season. The playoffs ended with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup with a seven game series win over the Calgary Flames on June 7. It was Tampa Bay's first Stanley Cup victory. It was the Flames' third final appearance, as they came this far in 1986 and 1989, winning the latter. The sixteen qualified teams, eight from each conference, played best-of-seven games for conference quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The winner of each conference proceeded to the Stanley Cup Finals. The format was identical to the one introduced for the 1999 playoffs. Don Cherry called this the greatest playoffs he has seen in 20 years.

New Ownership

On February 13, 2008, it was announced that Palace Sports & Entertainment had agreed to sell the Lightning to OK Hockey LLC, a group headed by Oren Koules, a producer of the Saw horror movies.

Lightning Primary Logo History Lightning Alternate Logo History No Wordmark Logo History


Team Information Team History

Tampa Bay

Lightning - In 1990, a thunderstorm served as inspiration for then-president of the Tampa Bay Hockey Group Phil Esposito's decision to name his team the Lightning. Esposito said that, in addition to being a natural characteristic of the Tampa Bay area, Lightning expressed the fast action of a hockey game.

Amalie Arena
2014 - present
  • Tampa Bay Times Forum
  • 2012 - 2014
  • St. Pete Times Forum
  • 2002 - 2012
  • Ice Palace
  • 1996 - 2002

Tropicana Field
1993 - 1996
Expo Hall
1992 - 1993

Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment
2010 - present
Oren Koules and Len Barrie
2007 - 2010
William Davidson
1999 - 2007
Arthur L. Williams, Jr.
1998 - 1999
Kokusai Green
1992 - 1998

Established: 1992

League History:
National Hockey League
1992 - present

Team History:
Tampa Bay Lightning
1992 - present

Stanley Cups: 1
2003 - 2004

Retired Numbers:
99 Wayne Gretzky

Mascots: 1992 - present

The Official Site of the Tampa Bay Lightning

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