Jeff Vinik likes Lightning's chances for outdoor game
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman the first time they met that every time they saw each other, he'd ask about Tampa hosting an All-Star Game.
It worked, with Tampa hosting the 2018 All-Star Game in January at Amalie Arena. So now Vinik's focus is on bringing an outdoor hockey game to the area, which would likely involve Raymond James Stadium.
And Vinik said he likes their chances.
"We're having a lot of conversations about it," Vinik said at Fan Fest Saturday. "Some people's immediate reaction is the climate is not good for an (outdoor) game. If you look at some of the conditions in Denver where they had some games, the weather in Tampa Bay is really close to that in February that time of year.
"We're going to keep pushing hard for it, I feel pretty good about our chances. Every time I see Gary I'll be asking."
NHL executive VP Steve Mayer has told the Tampa Bay Times that Tampa is a candidate for a future outdoor game, and the logistics could work. "Without saying what we would consider, I think there's nothing that they couldn't do in Tampa," Mayer said.
The Lightning has studied the subject, and Vinik agrees.
"We absolutely believe it could be done here," he said.
Other highlights from Vinik's presser:
*Vinik, like everyone else, felt the sting of the Lightning missing the playoffs last season.
"This year, not only is it exciting, but we have a little bit of an edge this year," Vinik said. "The sting of not making the playoffs last season I think, whether it is the owner, the management, coach or player, everyone still feels that. Emotions are a big part of sports, maybe the sting will help propel us to a little better start to the season."
*Vinik was happy to take the lead on donating money for Hurricane Harvey relief ($1 million), contributing $1 million to the $2.7 million joint donation with the Panthers, NHL and NHLPA to Hurricane Irma relief.
Vinik was out of town during the hurricane, extending a planned trip so he'd be away. But Vinik feels for those who couldn't.
"This community is amazing that we're in a difficult time, a hurricane, and a lot of people going through some challenging times right now," Vinik said. "People stepped up and it's amazing the way the community has come together. It reminds me of the way this hockey community supports this team, in good and bad.
"We're trying to do our part. We're fortunate with my wife and my foundation, we were able to give a good sized gift. But anything anyone can do to help makes a big difference. You see people stepping up every day."
*Vinik said the downtown development project is "right on schedule," not delayed by any Hurricane Irma aftermath. Groundbreaking on the USF building is in a few days, and there will be a half dozen more going up in the next 6-9 months.