Since owner Jeff Vinik bought the Lightning in 2010, he's said his goal was to make it a "world class" organization.
And on Thursday, the Lightning received a significant validation in its growth, ranked the No. 1 franchise in all of sports in ESPN the Magazine's annual rankings. The rankings measure all 122 teams in the four major pro sports leagues based on categories that "matter most to fans." Tampa Bay was voted No. 1 in sports when it comes to owners and players showing appreciation to fans. Other factors include on-ice success, affordability of tickets, fan experience, front office (getting the most out of money you spend).
The Lightning was No. 3 last year, and No. 85 in 2009, the year before Vinik bought the team.
"That 100 percent starts at the top," coach Jon Cooper said of Vinik. "That's a heck of an accomplishment."
The Bucs were ranked No. 73, the Rays No. 90.