As many fans of the Lightning know, the Bay area deals with a bias against hockey surviving including such as “bad ice,” “not a hockey town” and only good for “footbaw.” As with many warmer climate teams the area is not considered by the media and certain fans of the hockey culture. Although this is common knowledge, it seems the owner of the Lightning Mr. Jeff Vinik did not get the memo.
Vinik has shown in his 2 years of ownership that he has bought into making hockey a viable sport in the area. Since he took over, Vinik has done renovations to put the Forum on the map with the world’s largest electric organ, new seats and a memorable experience for fans. He has also invested in the area’s people through the community heroes program and has given funding to the Florida Aquarium. Now he is reported to be in the front-runner and purchaser of Channelside.
What does this mean? Aside from Vinik seriously investing in the Bay area, which is always nice from a local owner. It may mean that Vinik wants to put Tampa in some serious hockey spotlight—not like OK Hockey and their squabbles.
Jeff Vinik may be gearing up to bid Tampa as a potential host for the NHL’s All Star Game. The East may not see an All Star game for two years and the Lightning have hosted a game before in 1998 but maybe it is time to revisit the game to the area when the East gets it next.
Many things have changed since the last game here but some things remain the same like the Tampa location being a prime spot to hold NHL’s midseason festivity. With its tourist attractions and beaches, Tampa is a location that many players frequent and even live here. The area brings endless possibilities for players, coaches and their families to enjoy the midseason break of the NHL while gearing up for the game.
In reality, the biggest party to benefit from this would be the fans both local and abroad. With Channelside’s nightlife and hotels close to the rink, it makes less hassle for fans. For example, after watching the skills competition and draft, fans can go to places like Howl at the Moon and frequent many of Channelside’s bars and restaurants to celebrate their favorite players’ accomplishments. This is just the present environment, once Vinik changes Channelside, it is probably going to have even more things for fans to do.
For the NHL this would be a no brainer in many ways. First, like mentioned before, the location is prime and very adapted to handle fans from many different regions—many cruises leave from that area. The second and more important thing is Tampa has been played host to a big sports event multiple times. The city has been hosting Super Bowls for many years and is an old hand at security and safety. No offense to the NHL but there are more headaches with dealing with a Super Bowl than an All Star game at this stage. One of the last reasons and something commissioner Gary Bettman should consider with everything going on in Phoenix is that it can educate and put his “southern” experiment on display as a success to what happens when a team’s owner invests in the area. It would garner positive public relations for the sport and for the team. Many fans may agree that Bettman owes Tampa fans after the OK Hockey incident, and this would help.
The All Star game is meant to show off a city and help fans take pride of the sport being held there. Jeff Vinik has seen potential in the area and has acted. Maybe his moves will help the NHL and Bettman see it as well.