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Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik feels good about team's direction

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, left, and coach Guy Boucher watch Saturday’s training camp scrimmage in Brandon.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, left, and coach Guy Boucher watch Saturday’s training camp scrimmage in Brandon.

BRANDON — About 1,400 people watched the Lightning practice and scrimmage Saturday. The team has said it is closing in on selling 11,000 full season tickets, more than double last season's 5,000.

In other words, owner Jeff Vinik is feeling pretty good about the direction of the organization.

"We have upward movement on the business side," he said. "Obviously, I'm thrilled by that."

Vinik, 52, also is becoming more comfortable in his role.

The second-year owner used to answer questions with talking points. Now he is more casual. He is interacting more with fans and answers their e-mails. At the Ice Sports Forum, he walked through the crowd shaking hands.

Vinik, who lives in Weston, Mass., also is closer to making Tampa his family's primary residence with a move to an 8,400-square-foot home in the Palma Ceia section of South Tampa scheduled for August, he said.

"I have confidence in this area as a sports market and a hockey market," said Vinik, who is financing a $35 million makeover of the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I'm very pleased with how the fans are responding. We have a plan to have a good team every year and an improving business. The fans are there. The excitement is there. We just have to have a world-class organization and the plan will be fully realized."

SCRIMMAGE: Ryan Shannon, Tom Pyatt and Richard Panik scored for the Blue team in a 3-1 victory over the White in a scrimmage of two 30-minute halves with running time. Mike Angelidis scored for the White.

"Very high pace," coach Guy Boucher said. "It was higher than last year. Obviously, we're bringing guys here that have our identity and drafting guys who have our identity. It shows."

SLOW MOVING: Instead of power plays, teams received penalty shots. The shooters, who took off from the center red line, were chased by opponents, who started behind at the blue line. It was a bit embarrassing, then, when F Mattias Ritola was caught by D Radko Gudas, who disrupted Ritola's shot.

"Everything matters here," Gudas said of winning a job.

Even so, Boucher said of Ritola, "He's a line in advance. He shouldn't get caught."

MEDICAL MATTERS: D Charles Landry was helped off the ice after Panik elbowed him in the head during what was supposed to be a noncontact drill. … G Dustin Tokarski practiced but said he still is limited by a slow-healing abdominal injury.

ODDS AND ENDS: GM Steve Yzerman was in Farmington Hills, Mich., for the funeral for Brad McCrimmon, a former Red Wings teammate who coached the KHL's Lokomotiv team wiped out in a plane crash Sept. 7. … Forwards Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier will play their first scrimmages today.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik feels good about team's direction 09/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:46pm]
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