Vinik op­ti­mistic about out­door game

Tampa Bay Times - - Lightning - BY JOE SMITH Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — Light­ning owner Jeff Vinik told com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman the first time they met that ev­ery time they saw each other, he would ask about Tampa host­ing an All-Star Game.

It worked. This sea­son’s game is at Amalie Arena in Jan­uary. So now Vinik’s fo­cus is on bring­ing an out­door game to the area, some­thing that would likely in­volve Ray­mond James Sta­dium. And Vinik said he likes the Light­ning’s chances.

“We’re hav­ing a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about it,” Vinik said at Fan Fest on Satur­day. “Some peo­ple’s im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion is the cli­mate is not good for an (out­door) game. If you look at some of the con­di­tions in Den­ver where they had some games, the weather in Tampa Bay is re­ally close to that in Fe­bru­ary that time of year. We’re go­ing to keep push­ing hard for it. I feel pretty good about our chances. Ev­ery time I see Gary, I’ll be ask­ing.”

NHL ex­ec­u­tive VP Steve Mayer has said that Tampa is a can­di­date for a fu­ture out­door game, and the lo­gis­tics could work.

“We ab­so­lutely be­lieve it could be done here,” Vinik said.

Other high­lights from Vinik:

• On ex­pec­ta­tions after miss­ing the play­offs last sea­son: “We have a lit­tle bit of an edge this year. The sting of not mak­ing the play­offs last sea­son, I think, whether it is the owner, the man­age­ment, coach or player, ev­ery­one still feels that. Emo­tions are a big part of sports. Maybe the sting will help pro­pel us to a lit­tle bet­ter start to the sea­son.”

• He was happy to take the lead on do­nat­ing money for Hur­ri­cane Irma re­lief, con­tribut­ing $1 mil­lion to the $2.7 mil­lion joint do­na­tion with the Panthers, NHL and NHLPA. He was out of town on a planned trip dur­ing the storm. “We’re try­ing to do our part,” said Vinik, who also do­nated to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey re­lief. “We’re for­tu­nate with my wife and my foun­da­tion, we were able to give a good-sized gift. But any­thing any­one can do to help makes a big dif­fer­ence. You see peo­ple step­ping up ev­ery day.”

Quote of the day

“Drouin is a fab­u­lous player. But per­son­ally, I didn’t think he wanted to be here. I saw it in his eyes, the way he played.”

Light­ning founder and Hall of Fame mem­ber

Phil Es­pos­ito, on for­mer Light­ning wing Jonathan Drouin, traded to the Cana­di­ens in June.

(For more from Es­pos­ito on the Drouin trade, go to tam­pabay.com/blogs/light­ning.)

Alumni news

• The Light­ning will have a 25th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion Oct. 15 at Expo Hall at the Florida State Fair­grounds in Tampa, with a chance for mem­bers of the orig­i­nal team to in­ter­act with fans. • Light­ning alumni will play the U.S. women’s team, which is train­ing for next year’s Olympics at the Florida Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter Ice com­plex in Wes­ley Chapel, after Tampa Bay’s Sept. 24 ex­hi­bi­tion game at Amalie Arena.

Slap shots

• Touted D prospect Mikhail Ser­gachev, 19, was the last player on the ice after Satur­day’s prac­tice. Ser­gachev, ac­quired from Mon­treal in the June trade for Drouin, helped pack up the pucks, flip­ping a few to fans. His ma­tu­rity is im­press­ing the team.

• Two prospects you shouldn’t sleep on in the pre­sea­son: D Erik Cer­nak, ac­quired in last sea­son’s trade of G Ben Bishop to the Kings, and F Alex Volkov, a se­cond-round draft pick this year. •D An­ton Stral­man did not skate for the se­cond straight prac­tice. He is still con­sid­ered day-to-day.

•Fan Fest’s an­nounced at­ten­dance was 5,700.

Up­next

Camp re­sumes to­day at the Ice Sports Fo­rum in Bran­don (8:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m), with scrim­mages from 11:55 a.m.-12:30 p.m. It’s open to the pub­lic.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

SIGNHERE: Sheri Webb of In­di­ana gets a Fan Fest au­to­graph from alum­nus Adam Hall.

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