Feaster thrilled to be back with Lightning, "hurt" by St. Louis trade
Jay Feaster was proudly wearing his Lightning 2004 Stanley Cup ring Tuesday morning, back in an office at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and admittedly bleeding blue again.
"I don't know that I've ever stopped," he said.
Feaster, 51, the former long-time Tampa Bay general manager, was hired to be the executive director of community hockey development, with the job to help grow hockey at the youth/grassroots level. Though Feaster was fired by the Lightning in 2008, most recently working as Calgary's GM until his December departure, he kept his Brandon home.
Feaster, who was with the Lightning for 10 years, said he always considered the area "home." He made it known he'd like to return to the organization, though not necessarily in hockey operations, and discussions were rekindled when he was in Tampa in March for the 10th anniversary Stanley Cup celebration.
"It's awesome," Feaster said. "The previous ownership group that (Jeff Vinik) bought it from, they did everything they could to try to purge any evidence and record and memory of the 04 Cup win. So it's nice to be welcomed back like this."
Feaster called Vinik "the best owner in the game" and believes he'll bring the Lightning a Cup. He lauded Vinik for his community efforts and hiring good people, allowing general manager Steve Yzerman to do his job. Feaster doesn't want to get in Yzerman's way, and will stick to youth initiatives at putting more sticks in kids hands and growing the game. Feaster talked about the efforts to make hockey a sanctioned sport in Florida high schools, using hockey-based learning programs in schools, getting more invovled in the learn to play initiative.
Feaster just never thought that he'd come back to Tampa Bay and neither Vinny Lecavalier nor Marty St. Louis would be there. Lecavalier was bought out last summer. St. Louis forced his awkward departure in March by requesting a trade to the Rangers after not getting initially picked for Team Canada, which was run by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
"It hurt," Feaster said.
Feaster called St. Louis the day he was traded to New York for Ryan Callahan and left a voicemail.
"I said if this is what you wanted to do, I love you, I support you, I'll always support you," Feaster said. "But this is tough, that he was kind of the last link to that (Cup-winning) team."
Feaster said he had dinner with St. Louis and Lightning staff members in Calgary in 2008 and the captain made it clear back then he didn't like missing his son's hockey games as they traveled all over.
"It's a difficult thing," Feaster said. "Because I appreciate the lifestyle choice. I just think it's tough when you handcuff your GM, only one place I want to go and I want to do it now as opposed to, 'Hey, let's see how far this run can go? I'm the captain of the team.' And from that perspective, if that's something that you had been thinking about, if you were thinking, 'I'm still (upset) at 2010 and I better get picked this time (for Team Canada), and I have issues with the kids and youth hockey, maybe you should say, before they pick a captain, 'I'm cool with wearing an 'A.' I think it's tough when it's your captain."
Feaster understands Lightning fans are upset with St. Louis, hoping that time will heal.
"That's what's sad too," Feaster said. "That's the other thing I feel bad about. You had such a great thing here, you could have been set for life if you want."