Tampa Bay Lightning

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Tampa Bay Lightning
Missing image
Tampa Bay Lightning

Founded 1992
Home ice St. Pete Times Forum
Based in Tampa
Colours Black, white, silver, blue.
League National Hockey League
Head coach John Tortorella
General manager Jay Feaster
Owner Bill Davidson

The Tampa Bay Lightning are a National Hockey League team based in Tampa, Florida.

Founded: 1992-1993 (awarded December 20, 1991)
Arena: St. Pete Times Forum (formerly known as Ice Palace)
Uniform colors: Black, White, Blue, and Silver
Logo design: A circle pierced by a lightning bolt with the inscription "Tampa Bay LIGHTNING"
Stanley Cup wins: 1 - 2004

Franchise history

When Tampa was awarded an NHL franchise in 1991, the team's management brought in star power before they had any players. They hired 1970s Boston Bruins star Phil Esposito (Lightning founder) to be the general manager, his brother Tony as chief scout and 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 Stanley Cup in 1989, to sit behind the bench.

The Lightning first took the ice on October 7, 1992, shocking the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos -- a scoring mark as yet unmatched by any Lightning player. The Lightning shot to the top of the Norris Division within a month before faltering to finish in last place. Their 53 points in 1992-1993, however, is one of the best showings ever by an NHL expansion team, and Brian Bradley's 42 goals gave Tampa fans optimism for the next season.

The following season was an improvement, as the team picked up goalie Darren Puppa, left-wing goal scorer Petr Klima and aging sniper Denis Savard. While Puppa's play resulted in a significant improvement in goals allowed, Savard's best days were long-past and Klima's scoring was offset by his defensive lapses, and the Lightning still finished in last place.

In their fourth season, 1996, with Bradley still leading the team in scoring, second-year Alexander Selivanov scoring 31 goals, and Roman Hamrlik (the team's first-ever draft choice in 1992) having an all-star year on defense, they made the playoffs for the first time. Although they lost the first-round series to the Flyers, it still remains a magical season for Lightning fans (and the attendance of 28,183 on April 23 was the most for any NHL game until a game played outdoors in 2003).

The Lightning picked up sniper Dino Ciccarelli from the Detroit Red Wings that off-season, and he would not disappoint, scoring 35 goals (in addition to 30 from Chris Gratton). The Lightning looked destined for another playoff spot until Puppa and Bradley were injured and center John Cullen came down with cancer. Cullen survived, but the Lightning would barely miss the playoffs in 1997.

Tampa was once the doormat of the NHL
Tampa was once the doormat of the NHL

Most of the Lightning's stars from those first few seasons would be gone by 1998 due to free agency and trades, and most of the young guns they picked up would fail to materialize. The Lightning would go into a funk that they would not get out of for several years. Crisp was fired 11 games into the 1997-1998 season and eventually replaced by Jacques Demers. Puppa rarely played due to back trouble. They lost 55 (of 82) games in 1997-1998, and 57 each in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, becoming the first NHL team to post three straight 50-loss seasons.

A major factor in their decline was the ownership. The original owners were a consortium of Japanese businesses. One of them, Kokusai Green, took over majority control after the team missed its first expansion payment. Rumors abounded as early as the team's second season that the Lightning were on the brink of bankruptcy and that it was being used as a money laundering scheme for Japanese crime families (the yakuza). Even after their first playoff run, the team was awash in red ink and the owners wanted to sell. However, even some franchise insiders (including Crisp) didn't know who the owners were, and one of the major partners reportedly didn't even exist. Finally in 1998, after losing more than $100 million in six years, the owners found a buyer in insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams. Williams was widely seen as in over his head and was an easy target for his NHL colleagues, who called him "Jed Clampett" because of his thick Southern accent and fundamentalist Christian views (he neither smoked nor drank and frequently used terms like "goldangit" and "dadgummit"). Early in the season before a game against the New York Rangers, he decided to give a pep talk to the team loaded with college football slang and bizarre catchphrases. The Lightning lost the game 10-2, and lost eight more games after that, effectively ending their season. By the spring of 1999, Williams had seen enough, and sold the team to Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson.

By 2003 the Lightning, led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the bi-line efforts of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Vaclav Prospal found themselves atop the Southeast Division and in the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Coming back from a two-game deficit, they beat the Washington Capitals in a six-game series, with St. Louis scoring the series-winner in triple overtime. The Lightning could not hold their own against their second-round opponent, the New Jersey Devils, however, losing that series in five games. Nikolai Khabibulin had a 3.0 GAA in that Series before being pulled in Game 5 in favor of John Grahame.

Missing image
Dave Andreychuk and the 2004 squad claimed the Stanley Cup.

After their breakout season, the Lightning finished the 2003-2004 season atop the Eastern Conference standings with a franchise record 106 points. In the first round of the playoffs, as the top seed, the Lightning ousted the New York Islanders, a team many picked to upset the Eastern Conference winners, as the Islanders had given the Lightning much trouble in the past. However, this was not to be so, and with solid play from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, the Lightning went on to win the series by a convincing 4-1 margin. In the second round, the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful NHL team ever. However, with quality play from both Lecavalier and once again, Khabibulin, the Lightning were able to easily defeat the Canadiens in 4 straight games. They faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals, winning in a back-and-forth seven-game series in which neither team was able to win consecutive games and earning them their first spot in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. There they defeated the Calgary Flames 4 games to 3 to win their first Stanley Cup on June 7, 2004. Brad Richards, who had 26 points, won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Players of note

Hall of Famers:

Current stars:

Not to be forgotten:

Retired Numbers:

External links

National Hockey League
Current Teams : Anaheim | Atlanta | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | NY Islanders | NY Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | San Jose | St. Louis | Tampa Bay | Toronto | Vancouver | Washington
Trophies and Awards: Stanley Cup | Prince of Wales | Clarence S. Campbell | Presidents' Trophy | Art Ross | Bill Masterton | Calder | Conn Smythe | Hart | Norris | King Clancy | Lady Byng | Lester B. Pearson Award | Rocket Richard | Plus/Minus | Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award | Jennings | Vezina
Related Articles: AHL | ECHL | WHA | World Cup

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