From left to right, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier dawn the new Tampa Bay Lightning uniform at it's unveiling in 2011.
20 years of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey has afforded us eight head coaches, five general managers, five ownership groups, three home venues, six playoff appearances, and one Stanley Cup Championship. That's not even remarking on how many players have worn a Tampa Bay Lightning sweater, or how many individual awards they have won, how many draft picks have been selected / made the NHL, etc... It's just a brief rundown of the fact there have been a lot of changes in 20 years of Tampa Bay hockey.
The one thing that has been more of a visible evolution over the past two decades has been when the franchise has tweaked or revamped their brand. The Bolts have gone through three different logos during their playing days. Each one reflects a different era for the team.
But which one is most beloved to the fans?
Original logo (1992-2007)
The story behind the original crest design for the Bolts goes something like this: it's a doodle. Phil Esposito's doodle. Scrawled on a napkin while out-and-about, the elements were simple - the bolt of lightning, the state of Florida in the background. That came to be the secondary logo, while text and a silver background were features on the primary design.
For 15 years, this was the primary mark associated with the Lightning. It was the logo of record for the team's biggest accomplishments (the 2004 Stanley Cup title run) and grandest failings (season upon season of 50 losses or more from 1997-98 until 2001-02; so many more negatives that I don't want to further elaborate).
Updated logo (2007-2011)
Though there had been modifications to text and numbering on the Lightning's jersey system during the first 15 years of Lightning hockey, there hadn't been many major changes to the actual crest design. It's not that there hadn't been proposals and concepts thrown about on a new Lightning logo; Palace Sports and Entertainment specifically wanted to find a design that did not feature text on the crest, in order to aid marketing. SME Power Branding was enlisted in 2000 to help plot a change to the Bolts logo and... Nothing. 2001-02, the target season for changes, came and went and nothing new came out. A lack of "wow" scuttled a third-jersey design as well.
There was something specific the Lightning was looking for and it was articulated pretty well by former team President Ron Campbell:
"I would not anticipate it being drastic at all," Campbell said of possible changes. "But you want something with a little more variation, something that people will gravitate to, something they will have pride in."
Flash forward to the summer of 2007 and the waning days of the Palace Sports and Entertainment ownership tenure. The "improved" Lightning logo fit most of what Campbell had suggested the team wanted: Not a drastic change, but certainly an update that the fans came to embrace.
The downside to the updated Lightning logo was when it was implemented - 2007-08 was a disaster season as ownership was in flux and the organization went into a sharp decline.
Current logo (2011 - present)
The organization and the team were extracted from that mire by owner Jeff Vinik. The goal put forth in March 2010 was to remake the Tampa Bay Lightning into a world-class organization in business operations and hockey operations. Vinik set a new standard for the organization and set a new tone that was welcomed.
The transformation of the Lightning would not be complete without a change to the team's mark. The over-busy logo crest was retired for a simple lightning bolt icon that removed the necessity of text with the design. This, coincided with a revamp of the team's jersey system, was a drastic change that originally caught people in a negative fashion (read our old survey on fan reaction to the new designs).
There are two variations of the crest: a home version of white-on-royal-blue and a road version that incorporates text ("Tampa Bay") over a blue-on-white design. We use the road bolt below, but the logo stands out better in the white-on-blue layout.
We've been running a poll on Raw Charge for most of the summer asking which logo is people's favorite. From votes cast in this totally unscientific, Internet-based-and-can-be-manipulated poll, there seems to be a wider acceptance toward the new logo design. Early implementation of the brand (starting upon unveiling in winter 2011) was favorable in getting people both exposed to and used to the new design.
But does that make it the best design? What are your thoughts? It is simple and classy, but still sharply different from the designs Lightning fans were used to over the first 18 years of Lightning hockey.