Tampa Bay Lightning founder Phil Esposito hoping for expanded role with the team
There were no specifics given by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, just an acknowledgment Lightning founder Phil Esposito might be in line for an expanded role with the organization. And while Vinik said the final decision will be up to new CEO Tod Leiweke, Vinik sounded as if Esposito could be an asset on the community and marketing side of the organization.
"We want him involved with this team," Vinik said this week. "We want him out in the community. We want him involved with us. He's a great ideas person."
Expanding Esposito's role from his long-time gig as an analyst on radio broadcasts of Lightning home games, a job for which he has said he never has signed a contract, makes sense for an organization ready to embrace its past and make a better effort to market the team both in the St. Pete Times Forum and Tampa Bay area.
Coach Guy Boucher said he will stress the Lightning's Stanley Cup past in the locker room with pictures. And Leiweke found it odd during his introductory news conference to see so many non hockey-related pictures in the Forum's Icons restaurant, where news conference was held. Esposito seems to fit into any formula that creates in the community a heightened sense of awareness about the team. He is the founder, after all, is an engaging speaker and great storyteller, and has definite ideas about how to increase the team's presence in downtown Tampa.
Esposito said he is ready to get to work.
"I'm looking forward to get going because, quite frankly, I'm bored to death," he said. "I want to get working again. I never thought semi-retirement could be so boring. You can only play so much golf."
But Esposito also wants to be part of what he believes is the team's coming resurgence.
"What a difference," he said. "I said to Vinik, 'Where were you when I was trying to get a franchise?' I'm so excited about the whole thing with Jeff and Tod, and I think Stevie (general manager Steve Yzerman) is great. He's done some things already, I think this team is going to be better because of it."
"We'll see how it evolves," Vinik said of placing Esposito, "but Phil is a great asset for this organization."