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OK Hockey: The Lightning stays in Tampa



Oren Koules and Len Barrie took a quick 10 minutes Sunday night to speak about their intentions for the Lightning, most of which will come out in a news conference Monday at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Both, primary investors in OK Hockey, an ownership group that will pay $200-million for the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 nearby acres, said the first thing they will address on Monday is that they have no intention of moving the team.

"It's not even an option," said Koules, the Hollywood producer.

"It's not even an option," Barrie, the former NHLer, said at the same time.

Barrie spoke of several late-season games, against the Rangers and Bruins, in which the arena was packed, and a Tuesday night game in which, "I was just so thrilled with the enthusiasm in the arena on a Tuesday night. ... I love this area. I loved playing in Florida when I was with the Panthers. It's my favorite spot to live.

"This is a lifetime investment, a family-long kind of thing, nothing else for both of us."

Other points:

- Neither denied Barry Melrose will be named head coach. The original thought was OK Hockey would wait till Tuesday to make the official announcement. But knowing Koules' and Barrie's desire to hit the ground running, hockey's worst-kept secret may even be announced Monday.

- How fast wil the Vinny Lecavalier contract extension be done? Koules said he and Barrie had lunch with the superstar center on Sunday in Montreal to make sure the momentum of the apparently progressing contract talks doesn't falter.

"And Vinny bought," Koules said. "Leave it at that.

It is believed the extension could be announced in early July.

- Koules confirmed what has been widely believed, that GM Jay Feaster will "fit in."

- Koules said the rest of the ownership group will be announced Monday.

- Koules said the financial deal could already have closed but they are waiting for June 30 because that is the final day of the fiscal year, which will make the books easier to transfer.

- Koules said the team will be "very, very active" in free agency.

- Barrie said both he and Koules will buy places in Tampa. Koules said the pair, which will share the running of the team, will be "accessible and accountable to the fans." They said they will walk among them between periods of games and set up a e-mail account on which fans can ask questions. There will be a town hall meeting.

"It's not like we're going to be behind some glass shield," Koules said. "There's no separation here."

Perhaps we hear more on Monday.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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