Vinik optimistic about outdoor game
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.)
• 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.
• 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.
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.
SIGNHERE: Sheri Webb of Indiana gets a Fan Fest autograph from alumnus Adam Hall.