|Tampa Bay Lightning|
|History||Tampa Bay Lightning
|Home Arena||St. Pete Times Forum|
|Colors||Black, Dark Blue, Silver, and White|
WDAE (620 AM)
|General Manager||Brian Lawton|
|Head Coach||Rick Tocchet|
|Minor League Affiliates||Norfolk Admirals|
|Division Championships||2002-03, 2003-04|
In the late 1980s, the NHL announced that it would expand. Two rival groups from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area decided to bid for a franchise--a St. Petersburg-based group fronted by future Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes management Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford and a Tampa-based group fronted by two Hall of Famers, Phil and Tony Esposito.
On paper, it looked like the Karmanos/Rutherford group was the frontrunner. Not only was the Karmanos/Rutherford group better financed, but Esposito's American partners had backed out a few months before the bid, forcing him to recruit a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by golf course owner Kokusai Green. However, according to former NHL president Gil Stein, the St. Petersburg group wanted to pay only $29 million before starting play, while the Esposito group did not question the $50 million expansion fee. The Esposito group got the franchise.
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.
Phil Esposito initially attempted to recreate the mystique from the powerhouse Bruins of the 70s; he hired former linemate Wayne Cashman as an assistant coach, former Bruin trainer John "Frosty" Forristal as the team's trainer, and the inaugural team photo has him flanked by Cashman and player Ken Hodge, Jr., son of his other Bruins' linemate. The team turned heads in the preseason when Manon Rhéaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game, making her first of two NHL appearances in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues.
The Lightning first took the ice on October 7, 1992, playing in Tampa's tiny 11,000-seat Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds. They shocked the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos — a scoring mark unmatched by any Lightning player. The Lightning shot to the top of the Norris Division within a month, behind Kontos' initial torrid scoring pace and a breakout season by forward Brian Bradley, before faltering to finish in last place. Their 53 points in 1992-93, however, was one of the best showings ever by an NHL expansion team, and Bradley's 42 goals gave Tampa Bay fans optimism for the next season; it would be a team record until the 2006-07 season when Vincent Lecavalier passed it with a career high 52 goals.
The following season saw the Lightning move to the Florida Suncoast Dome (a building originally designed for baseball) in St. Petersburg, which was reconfigured for hockey and renamed "the Thunderdome." The team picked up goaltender 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 was long past his prime and Klima's scoring was offset by his defensive lapses. The Lightning finished last in the Atlantic Division. Another disappointing season followed in the lockout-shortened 1995 season. Still, the Lightning appeared to be far ahead of their expansion brethren, the Ottawa Senators. In marked contrast to the Lightning, the Senators showed almost no sign of respectability in their first four seasons.
In their fourth season, 1995-96, 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, the Bolts finally qualified for the post-season playoffs, nosing out the defending Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils for the 8th spot in the East. Although they lost their first-round series in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, it still remains a magical season for Lightning fans. The Thunderdome crowd of 28,183 at the April 23 playoff game against the Flyers was the most for any NHL game, a record that stood until the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton.
The Lightning picked up sniper Dino Ciccarelli from the Detroit Red Wings during the 1996 off-season, and he did not disappoint, scoring 35 goals in the 1996-97, with Chris Gratton notching another 30. The team debuted a glittering new arena, the Ice Palace (now the St. Pete Times Forum) and appeared destined for another playoff spot. Then, the injury bug bit. Puppa developed back trouble that would limit him to total of 50 games from 1996 until his retirement in 2000. Bradley also lost time to injury, playing only 49 games in the next three seasons. Centre John Cullen developed cancer, from which he eventually recovered. Decimated by these injuries and illnesses, the Lightning narrowly missed the playoffs. It would be seven years before the Lightning would even come close to the playoffs again.
Most of the Lightning's stars from those first few seasons would be gone by 1998 due to free agency and trades by Phil Esposito which ended up backfiring. The Lightning spent the end of the 1990s in the cellar of the NHL. Crisp was fired eleven games into the 1997-98 season and replaced by Jacques Demers. Though Demers had presided over the resurgence of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980s and helmed a Stanley Cup run in Montreal in 1993, he was unable to change the team's fortunes. The Lightning lost 55 games in 1997-98, 54 in 1998-99, 58 in 1999-2000 and 53 in 2000-01, becoming the first NHL team to post four straight 50-loss seasons.
A major factor in their decline was Kokusai Green. Rumors abounded as early as the team's second season that the Lightning were on the brink of bankruptcy and that the team was part of a money laundering scheme for the yakuza (Japanese crime families). The Internal Revenue Service investigated the team in 1995. Even in their first playoff season, the team was awash in red ink and Kokusai Green wanted to sell. Most of Esposito's trades came because he was under orders to cut the payroll to make the team more attractive on the market. However, the sale was hampered by the fact that many team insiders (including Crisp) didn't know who the owners were; at least one person listed as a major stockholder reportedly didn't even exist.
Finally, in 1998, after losing more than $100 million in six years, Kokusai Green sold the team to insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams. Williams walked into a difficult financial situation. As early as 1997-98, Kokusai Green refused to spend another penny on the team. It was frequently late paying vendors and was behind on state and federal taxes during the last few months of its ownership. In late 1997, Forbes magazine called the Lightning the worst-off franchise in any of the major pro sports, with a debt equal to an astronomical 236% of its value. 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 wouldn't result in much revenue for 30 years. 
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 debt left over from the Kokusai Green era. After taking control, Williams publicly assured the Espositos that they were safe--only to fire them two games into the 1998-99 season. Demers became general manager as well as coach. Williams was widely seen as being in over his head and was an easy target for his NHL colleagues, who called him "Jed Clampett" behind his back because of his thick Southern accent and fundamentalist Christian views. Early in the 1998-99 season, the Lightning lost 10 games in a row, all but ending any chance of making the playoffs. Some blame Williams for the slide. He named sophomore Vincent Lecavalier (whom he called hockey's Michael Jordan) as captain, an unprecedented promotion for a player in only his second NHL season.
By the spring of 1999, Williams had seen enough. He hadn't attended a game in some time because "this team broke my heart." He lost $20 million in the 1998-99 season alone — as much money in one year as he'd estimated he could have reasonably lost in five years. 
Williams sold the team for $115 million — $2 million less than he'd paid for the team a year earlier — to Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, who had also owned the Detroit Vipers of the now-defunct International Hockey League. Davidson had been one of the bidders for the team in 1998, losing to Williams. Davidson remained in Detroit, but appointed Tom Wilson as team president to handle day-to-day management of the team. Wilson immediately fired Demers, who despite his best efforts (and fatherly attitude toward Lecavalier) was unable to overcome the damage from the Kokusai Green ownership. Wilson persuaded Ottawa Senators general manager Rick Dudley to take over as the Lightning's new general manager. Dudley brought Vipers coach Steve Ludzik in as the Lightning's new coach. Wilson, Dudley and Ludzik had helped make the Vipers one of the premier minor league hockey franchises, and they'd won a Turner Cup in only their third season in Detroit (the team had originally been in Salt Lake City).
However, as had been the case with Demers, the damage from the last few seasons under Kokusai Green was too much for Ludzik to overcome, even with a wholesale transfer of talent from Detroit to Tampa (a move that eventually doomed the Vipers, who folded along with the IHL in 2001). He was replaced in early 2001 by career NHL assistant John Tortorella. The 2001-02 season, Tortorella's first full year, saw some improvement. While finishing far out of playoff contention, the Lightning at least showed some signs of life, earning more than 60 points for the first time since 1997. Tortorella stripped Lecavalier of the captaincy due to contract negotiations that had made the young center miss the start of ’01-’02.
With the 2002-03 season, the Lightning's youthful roster exceeded expectations. The young team was led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the scoring efforts of Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal, Fredrik Modin and Brad Richards, and boasted a new captain, NHL journeyman Dave Andreychuk. Throughout the season, the Lightning battled the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. They finished with 93 points, breaking the 90-point barrier for the first time in team history. They won the division by just one point, giving them home-ice advantage in their first round matchup with Washington.
The Lightning's defeat of the Capitals in a six-game series advanced them to the conference semifinals for the first time in team history. In the quarterfinals the Lightning won only one game, losing the series to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup, but the team's return to the post-season pleased the long-suffering hockey fans of the Tampa Bay area.
The Lightning roared through the 2003-04 regular season, finishing with 106 points, second-best in the league after the West's Detroit Red Wings--the first 100-point season in franchise history. Few NHL teams have come so far so fast. Remarkably, the Lightning went through the season with only 20 man-games lost to injury. In the first round of the playoffs, the Lightning ousted the Alexei Yashin-led New York Islanders in 5 games, with solid play from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
In the second round, the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens, captained by Saku Koivu. Lecavalier, Richards, and Khabibulin led the team to a 4 game sweep of the Montreal. They next faced Keith Primeau and his Philadelphia Flyers in the conference finals. After a tightly-fought seven-game series in which neither team was able to win consecutive games, Fredrik Modin notched the winning goal of the seventh and deciding game, earning the Eastern Conference Championship for the Lightning and their first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup finals.
Tampa Bay's opponent in the final round was the Calgary Flames, captained by Jarome Iginla. The final round also went the full seven games, with the deciding game played in the Forum on June 7, 2004. Ruslan Fedotenko was the Game 7 hero this time, scoring both Lightning goals in the 2-1 victory. Brad Richards, who had 26 points, won the Conn Smythe Trophy; in all 31 contests in which he had scored a goal since the opening of the season, the Lightning did not lose a single game. Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Only three years after losing 50 games, the Lightning became the southernmost team ever to win the Stanley Cup, as well as the third-fastest to win the trophy (in only their 12th year of existence). Martin St. Louis led the team and the NHL with 94 points (and his 38 goals were fourth-most after the 41 of tied trio Iginla, Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk), and won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. St. Louis also won the Lester B. Pearson Award for league's most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players' Association, and tied the Vancouver Canucks' Marek Malik for the NHL Plus/Minus Award.
The Lightning had to wait a year to defend their title due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, but in 2005-06 they finished the season with only 92 points, entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in the East, and lost to the Ottawa Senators 4 games to 1 in the first round.
During the offseason, the Lightning traded Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for goaltender Marc Denis, to replace John Grahame, who had served as the Lightning's goaltender throughout most of the 2005-06 season, as he left the team, and signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. Free agent Johan Holmqvist would eventually get the majority of playing time, and most of the club's wins. The first half of the 2006-07 NHL Season was rocky for the Lightning, maintaining an 18-19-2 record throughout the first few months. January and February were far better months for the team, going 9-4-0 in January, and 9-2-2 in February, getting them back into the thick of things in the playoff race. 14 games in March were split even, and on March 16, 2007, Vincent Lecavalier broke the franchise record for most points in a season, with 95 (finishing with 108). The record was previously held by Martin St. Louis, who had set the record in the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Championship year. Lecavalier also broke the franchise's goal scoring record, finishing with a league-leading 52 goals.
The Lightning were busy during the final weeks before the NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring wingers Kyle Wanvig, Stephen Baby, and defensemen Shane O'Brien. Former first round pick Nikita Alexeev was traded on the day of the deadline to the Chicago Blackhawks. Other new additions for the team during the season were Filip Kuba, Luke Richardson, and Doug Janik. Veteran Andre Roy, who had won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Throughout March, the Lightning had been switching places with the Atlanta Thrashers for first place in the Southeast Division. With a chance to overtake the Thrashers one final time and once again become division champions for the third time in team history, on April 6, 2007, in the final week of the regular season, the Lighting suffered a loss to the Florida Panthers, the night before the season finale in Atlanta. That same night, the Thrashers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, and clinched the division. For the Lightning, this meant having to settle for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, with a final record of 43-33-5 (93 points).
The Lightning were eliminated from playoff competition on April 22, (4 games to 2), after a 3-2 home loss to the New Jersey Devils in game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
On August 7, 2007, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, a group led by Doug MacLean, announced it had signed a purchase agreement for the team and the leasehold on the St. Pete Times Forum. MacLean is the former president and general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets and former head coach for both the Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers. The purchase must still be approved by the NHL which is expected to occur in late September. The group has announced that they plan to keep the team in Tampa.
The Lightning have struggled to maintain success during the 2007-2008 campaign. Although the "Big 3" (Lecavlier, St. Louis, and Richards) along with Vaclav Prospal have performed up to expectations, they have little consistent play from support players. The Lightning are suffering from what is believed to be poor personnel decisions made to acquire these supporting players and poor individual performance from supporting players. For example, Marc Denis, a multi-million dollar free agent goaltender signed a few years ago, was waived on December 28th, 2007.
Since starting play, the Lightning colors have been blue, black and white. Their logo has been a stylized lightning bolt. This is the origin of one nickname for the team – the 'Bolts'.
Like all NHL teams for the 2007-08 season, the Lightning will be using the new Rbk Edge jerseys. Like several other NHL teams, the Lightning have updated their logo for the 2007-08 season.
The Lightning unveiled their new logo on August 25, 2007. The new logo is similar to the old one, but with a more modern look. The new logo also kept the same theme as the previous one by having "Tampa Bay" written on it, but without the word "Lightning".
The Lightning mascot is a lightning bug named ThunderBug. He performs at games and makes appearances in the community. According to the Lightning website , his hobbies include "wrestling Florida Panthers, Shark fishing, hunting Mighty Ducks, trap shooting Thrashers and Carolina Hog tying.".
The Lightning also utilize a dance team known as the Lightning Girls at all home games and community events. The Tampa Bay Lightning Girls are a group of dancers who perform in the stands and clean the ice during breaks. Very few of the girls can actually skate (see bios).
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Lightning. For the full season-by-season history, see Tampa Bay Lightning seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Records as of February 6, 2007. 
|2001-02||82||27||40||11||4||69||178||219||1072||3rd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2002-03||82||36||25||16||5||93||219||210||1079||1st, Southeast||Lost in Conference Semifinals, 1-4 (Devils)|
|2003-04||82||46||22||8||6||106||245||192||985||1st, Southeast||Stanley Cup Champions, 4-3 (Flames)|
|2004-05||Season canceled due to 2004-05 NHL Lockout|
|2005-061||82||43||33||—||6||92||252||260||947||2nd, Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 1-4 (Senators)|
|2006-07||82||44||33||—||5||93||253||261||708||2nd, Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 2-4 (Devils)|
|#||Player||Catches||Acquired||Place of Birth|
|30||Marc Denis||L||2006||Montreal, Quebec|
|31||Karri Ramo||L||2004||Asikkala, Finland|
|40||Johan Holmqvist||L||2006||Tierp, Sweden|
|#||Player||Shoots||Acquired||Place of Birth|
|3||Doug Janik||L||2006||Agawam, Massachusetts|
|22||Dan Boyle (IR)||R||2001||Ottawa, Ontario|
|37||Brad Lukowich||L||2007||Cranbrook, British Columbia|
|39||Mike Lundin||L||2004||Apple Valley, Minnesota|
|54||Paul Ranger||L||2002||Whitby, Ontario|
|55||Shane O'Brien||L||2007||Port Hope, Ontario|
|71||Filip Kuba||L||2006||Ostrava, Czechoslovakia|
|#||Player||Position||Shoots||Acquired||Place of Birth|
|4||Vincent Lecavalier – A||C||L||1998||Ile Bizard, Quebec|
|7||Michel Ouellet||RW||R||2007||Rimouski, Quebec|
|16||Jason Ward||RW||R||2007||Chapleau, Ontario|
|17||Jan Hlavac||LW||L||2007||Prague, Czechoslovakia|
|19||Brad Richards – A||C||L||1998||Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island|
|20||Vaclav Prospal||RW||L||2005||Ceske Budejovice, Czechoslovakia|
|21||Mathieu Darche||LW||L||2007||Saint-Laurent, Quebec|
|24||Andreas Karlsson||C||L||2006||Ludvika, Sweden|
|26||Martin St. Louis – A||RW||L||2000||Laval, Quebec|
|29||Craig MacDonald||C/LW||L||2007||Antigonish, Nova Scotia|
|34||Ryan Craig (IR)||C||L||2002||Abbotsford, British Columbia|
|36||André Roy||RW||L||2006||Port Chester, New York|
|74||Nick Tarnasky||C||L||2003||Rocky Mountain House, Alberta|
|77||Chris Gratton||C||L||2007||Brantford, Ontario|
Hall of Famers: The Lightning have had one Hall of Famer as a player, Denis Savard (C, 1993-95) was inducted in 2000 (as a Player) for his NHL career.
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Lightning player
|Martin St. Louis*||RW||457||179||223||402||.88|
New Jersey Devils
|Stanley Cup Champions
|Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Franchise • Players • Coaches • GMs • Seasons • Records • Draft picks • St. Pete Times Forum • Norfolk Admirals • Mississippi Sea Wolves|
|Tampa Bay Lightning Coaches|
|Crisp • Paterson • Demers • Ludzik • Tortorella|
|Tampa Bay Lightning Seasons|
|1992-93 • 1993-94 • 1994-95 • 1995-96 • 1996-97 • 1997-98 • 1998-99 • 1999-00 • 2000-01 • 2001-02 • 2002-03 • 2003-04 • 2005-06 • 2006-07 • 2007-08|
|National Hockey League (2007-08)|
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|New Jersey Devils||Boston Bruins||Atlanta Thrashers||Chicago Blackhawks||Calgary Flames||Anaheim Ducks|
|New York Islanders||Buffalo Sabres||Carolina Hurricanes||Columbus Blue Jackets||Colorado Avalanche||Dallas Stars|
|New York Rangers||Montreal Canadiens||Florida Panthers||Detroit Red Wings||Edmonton Oilers||Los Angeles Kings|
|Philadelphia Flyers||Ottawa Senators||Tampa Bay Lightning||Nashville Predators||Minnesota Wild||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Toronto Maple Leafs||Washington Capitals||St. Louis Blues||Vancouver Canucks||San Jose Sharks|
|Seasons (structure) · Stanley Cup (Playoffs–Finals–Champions) · Presidents' Trophy · All-Star Game · Draft · Players (Association) · All-Star Teams · Awards|
|History · Timeline · Defunct teams · NHA · Original Six · 1967 Expansion · WHA · Streaks · Droughts · Hall of Fame (members) · Rivalries · Arenas · Rules · Violence|