Team Profiles: The Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have an interesting history despite the age of the team.

A brief overview:
Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
Established: 1992
Arena: Amelia Arena
AHL Affiliate: Syracuse Crunch
Owner: Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment
Coach: Jon Cooper
Best Known Line: Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis (MVP line)
Notable Former Players: Martin St Louis, Vincent Lecavalier
Current Captain: Steven Stamkos (at time of posting)
Goalies: Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy
Notable Current Players: Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov

Some interesting facts:
In one of their first preseasons games in 1992, Manon Rhéaume played for the Lightning against the Blues making her the first woman to play any major professional sport in North America.

Named the Lightning because Tampa Bay is known as the “Lightning Capital of North America”.

NHL announced the desire for an expansion in the 1980s that lead to two groups trying to get a team: one lead by the owners who would eventually get the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, and Tony and Phil Esposito.

The Espositos looked like they weren’t going to be able to afford the franchise until they got backing from a Japanese golf course and resort, Kokusai Green. Kokusai Green’s owner, Takashi Okubo, never met Esposito in person, never saw his team play, and never went to Tampa. There were rumors that the team was a front for the yakuza (Japanese crime family).

The franchise was investigated by the IRS in 1994 and 1995 and owed $750,000 in back taxes.

Because of all the fiscal problems the team was having, the NHL told Okubo that he would have to sell the team by 1998 or they would take it over. In 1997, the team’s debt was 236% of its value, the highest debt of any major North American sports franchise.

The Lightning changed hands several times, and struggled through several seasons before winning the Cup in 2003, though they didn’t really find a strong footing until the 2009-2010 season.

Despite their rocky start, the Lightning have become a team that can compete with the best, as we’ve seen by their recent playoff appearances. They have several of the leagues strong players and definitely shouldn’t be underestimated.

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