Lightning ranked No. 1 franchise in NHL by ESPN
Owner Jeff Vinik said he wanted to turn the Lightning into a "world class franchise," akin to a Green Bay Packers.
And, according to ESPN's Ultimate Ratings, the Lightning is ranked ahead of the Packers - Tampa Bay is No. 3 overall across all sports - and No. 1 in the NHL.
ESPN has done these annual rankings, looking at attributes like coaching, ownership, fan relations, affordability and stadium experience. The Lightning, coming off its run to the Stanley Cup Final, was the top-ranked NHL team for the second time (also in 2011, when it was No. 2 overall behind the Packers).
The only pro sports franchises ahead of them in this year's rankings are the Spurs and Grizzlies. What ESPN wrote on the good things for Lightning.
"The Lightning finished eighth across all leagues in the players category, and while that position isn't as impressive as their score in ownership, fan relations, affordability or stadium experience, their success in those areas flows from the product they put on the ice. The franchise has slowly cultivated an authentic fan base in central Florida, the rare Sun Belt market to do so, and the average ticket price of just $44.50 (the NHL's second lowest) is enough to make fans forget about paying a league-high 6 bucks for a 20-ounce soft drink. Efforts to keep opposing fans out of Amalie Arena by limiting ticket sales to Florida residents have been successful, enabling the club to maintain a partisan atmosphere in the league's seventh-largest building, where they posted the best home record in the NHL last season."