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Lightning Round: 30 years ago the first Lightning tickets went on sale

Things were different back then

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Edmonton Oilers Set Number: X43551 TK2 R5 F5

The 2022-23 NHL season is just over a month away. When it kicks off, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be celebrating their 30th season as a NHL franchise. As we roll through the season we’ll be sprinkling in some of the more memorable stories about the team over that time frame.

Let’s start off with the fact that it was 30 years ago that the first individual tickets for the Lightning went on sale to the public. Things were quite different back in those days. According to a Tampa Tribune article from September 2nd, 1992, fans had lined up outside of the Lightning offices starting at 6:00 A.M. (identical twins Blake and Brent Wiley were credited with being first in line) to ensure that they got the tickets that they wanted.

For you youngsters out there that are used to doing everything on your phone, there used to be these things called tickets. They were pieces of paper that you had to physically possess in order to get into games. Not only that, but in order to get these tickets you had to stand in line and talk to someone at a box office to buy them. Or you had to call TicketMaster directly and wait on hold until you talked to a live voice. There was no logging in on online to order, or one-click buying on an app. You had to work for your tickets!

Give the fans credit, despite all of that effort they had to go through, they put a huge dent in the available ticket supply, basically snatching up all of the opening night tickets by 5:30 PM as well as the majority of the tickets for marquee match-ups against teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins (the defending Stanley Cup Champions). Games against the Detroit Red Wings and and Philadelphia Flyers were also virtually sold out by the end of the business days.

Phil Esposito worked the crowd, he worked any crowd that he ran into back in the early days, shaking hands and signing autographs as he saw all of his hard work and scrambling to put the team together finally pay off.

The St. Petersburg Times article claimed that 4,000 tickets were sold in the first 90 minutes. They also stated that the season tickets were sitting at about 4,500 sold, roughly 3,000 short of their goal. A lack of corporate support was a key factor in the shortfall, with businesses making up only 25% of the season tickets sold (the norm at the time in the NHL was 65% for corporate tickets).

It seemed a lot of the fans were born out of state and were interested in seeing their favorite teams. Both articles mentioned Penguin fans specifically. There were also the hockey neophytes buying tickets to see what all the fuss was about. From the Times article,

“Others, like Skeeter Thomas of Tampa, never have seen a hockey game and wanted to buy a few tickets to see whether they like it. ‘He asked how much water was under the ice,’ said Thomas’ friend, Gary Tinschert, originally from Long Island.”

According to Hockey DB, the Lightning averaged 10,014 fans per game in 1992-93. Not bad considering Expo Hall had a listed seating capacity of 10,500. Not bad for a team in Florida.

Lightning / NHL News

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2022 NHL European Player Media Tour Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

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There are a lot of amusing anecdotes about the series that took place between the Soviet Union and Canada back in 1972. Lightning owner Phil Esposito figures prominently, including a note about how he almost got into a bar fight with fans. Also, they manage to tie in Andrei Vasilevskiy in one of the “facts”.

“Still working with the Russian junior team in the early 2000s as its general manager, [Russian Equipment manager at the 1972 Summit Series, Alexi] Kotchetkov explained why Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning catches with his non-dominant left hand. In Tyumen, where the all-star Cup winner grew up, no one had a right goalie mitt.

“Because it was Russia, it was a tough time, so basically I had no choice,” Vasilevskiy said.

“It’s appropriate to compare Vasilevskiy with me,” [Victor] Tretiak told in 2018. “I was the first to play the butterfly and he plays an outright full butterfly. He’s tall (6-foot-3). I like his style. He’s got the character I had, I’m absolutely sure of that. And he competes for every puck, just like me.”

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