Espo wanted the team
Lightning founder Phil Esposito said on Thursday -- the 17th anniversary of the NHL conditionally awarding the franchise to the Tampa Bay area -- that he was trying to put together a group to buy the team when Absolute Hockey Enterprises announced on Aug. 7 it had reached a purchase agreement with Palace Sports & Entertainment.
He said he could not make it work because the real estate developers he was courting only wanted the 5.5 acres near the St. Pete Times Forum that were in Absolute Hockey's purchase agreement -- not the team. And even though Absolute Hockey's deal has fallen apart amid investor squabbling, Espo said he no longer has a desire to be a primary owner. It is just too much work, he said, to find all that money, though he said he might consider joining a group as a minority investor because "they'd be doing the work.''
There's a story about it in today's paper but was curious what people thought about Espo as an owner. As team founder, and considering his love for the franchise, I expect he would work as hard as he could with the team's best interests at heart. He almost teared up when I asked him to describe his affection for the team. In fact, he said the two greatest days of his hockey life were when his number was retired in Boston and the announcement that Tampa Bay got a team.