What they're saying about Mr. Davidson
Sad day for a lot of people when they found out former Lightning owner Bill Davidson died Friday at age 86.
Clearly, we did not know Mr. Davidson well, and his passion was the Detroit Pistons, which he bought in 1974. Mr. Davidson even is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame. But those who knew him said his lack of face time in Tampa was as much about his failing health. By the time Tampa Bay won the 2004 Stanley Cup, he already was riding a scooter because of problems with his legs. As former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said, "Hockey was not his first passion, but he was no longer a young man who wanted to make those kinds of jaunts down to Tampa all the time. But I know he was proud of what we were able to accomplish in the community and what the organization could give back."
Davidson's Palace Sports & Entertainment bought the Lightning in the summer of 1999. The franchise was sold to Oren Koules' OK Hockey last summer. Mr. Davidson, a billionaire who made his money producing glass products through his Guardian Industries, was a hands-off owner -- "He was an owner who believed in hiring good people and giving those people an opportunity to do their jobs," Feaster said -- but it was under his watch that the team came out of the wilderness and won the 2004 Stanley Cup.
"His vision and patience and business acumen all allowed the team to come together and have success and galvanize this community in a way that if you were here, you will never forget it for a lifetime," said former Lightning president Ron Campbell, still is a Palace Sports employee.
"A very nice man," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "He liked to see his team on the ice. He came in and shook everybody's hand and told us how proud he was. I didn't know him a lot, but he treated the players great. He loved sports and he loved to win."
Palace CEO Tom Wilson had an interesting anecdote about an interview Mr. Davidson did about a year ago. Asked about 2004, when the Lightning, Pistons and WNBA Detroit Shock, which he also owned, won championships, Wilson said Davidson remarked that the Lightning's victory was sweetest because "he never saw it coming."
"He enjoyed it and loved it," Wilson said. "I think the thing that amazed him was that NBA players enjoy winning championships, but the unbridled passion and relief that NHL players have with winning the Stanley Cup, which is their holy grail, just dwarfs any other sport."
Wilson went on to say that Mr. Davidson's death does not change anything regarding Palace Sports' financing agreements with OK Hockey. "Everything is staying in the family," Wilson said of the company's various business ventures.
We'll give the final word to Feaster, who said Mr. Davidson should also be remembered for his charitable work.
"He was an extremely generous and giving individual," Feaster said. "If you look at the kind of charitable giving he was involved in, from institutes to a hospital in Israel he funded; everybody focused on the sports teams he owned, but what is missed is what he did as a human being as far as giving to his fellow man."
Other stuff from this morning: Karri Ramo is expected to start his third straight game in net. ... Funny moment with right wing Evgeny Artyukhin, who was accused by Toronto's Ben Ondrus after Thursday's game, of not being able to speak English. "I give interviews," Artyukhin said. Asked if he was going to forget about the incident, Artyukhin said no. "Next game I'll probably tell him I can speak English." ... Saw former Lightning defenseman Steve Eminger, who was traded at the deadline to the Panthers. He said he is loving the intensity of the playoff race, but said he owes a lot to his time with the Lightning because he was able to play excessive minutes in all situations, and that can only be good for his development as a player. He disputed, though Lightning GM Brian Lawton's assertion he had tried hard to sign Eminger to an extension before trading him. "It wasn't too much," Eminger said. "There was an offer but it wasn't getting too serious. It wasn't intense. it wasn't like I was in their office in meetings with my agent. There was none of that." ... Actually, Eminger said going from averaging 23:33 of ice time for Tampa Bay to playing an average 15:32 for Florida was an adjustment, but a welcome one because he believed the minutes he was playing with the Lightning were too much for him to be as effective as he could otherwise. He also had to pace himself on nights when his ice time approached 30 minutes. "Playing 16, 17, 18 minutes you can go out and be physical, you can do everything you can do," he said. "So, there was getting out of that mode of going 30 minutes and going hard on every shift." ... As for the circus that has been Tampa Bay's season, Eminger said a tight locker room helped block out distractions. "It was a good room," he said. "We blocked out whatever was going on on the outside." ... Defenseman Noah Welch, who came to the Lightning in the Eminger deal said he can't worry about impressing Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, who did not like his game . "That's a lot of pride in a negative way," Welch said. "The coaches made their decision when I was here. Whether they believed in me or not, I believe I can play at this level." ... Lightning left wing Ryan Malone is only three goals from tying last season's production of 27 with the Penguins. Quite an accomplishment when you consider he was hurt and had just three goals in his first 15 games.