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Jeff Vinik tells Lightning fans he shares their disappointment over early playoff exit

The owner says he accepts responsibility for the first-round loss but remains “very bullish” on the team’s Stanley Cup chances in coming years.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans Zachary Koehler (left) and Kirsten Nagle watch the Bolts fall behind 3-1 during the second period of Game 4. The Columbus Blue Jackets eventually won 7-3 to oust Tampa Bay in the first round. (ALLIE GOULDING| Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning fans Zachary Koehler (left) and Kirsten Nagle watch the Bolts fall behind 3-1 during the second period of Game 4. The Columbus Blue Jackets eventually won 7-3 to oust Tampa Bay in the first round. (ALLIE GOULDING| Times)
Published May 2, 2019
Updated May 3, 2019

TAMPA — The Lightning’s dissatisfaction with its first-round playoff exit in a sweep runs from top to bottom. Owner Jeff Vinik has sent an email to season-ticket holders expressing his disappointment.

“We accept full ownership and responsibility for our result in the postseason,” his letter says. “Nobody is more disappointed than our players and the hockey operations department, inclusive of (general manager) Julien BriseBois, (coach) Jon Cooper, our coaches, and staff. Me, too.”

Related: ROMANO: NHL's rash of first-round upsets don't excuse the Lightning's

He wrote that the Lightning remains “very bullish” but doesn’t want to overreact to the disappointment of the loss to the Blue Jackets. He said he believes the team will win the Stanley Cup with BriseBois and Cooper, and he plans to let them and chief executive officer Steve Griggs do their jobs.

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik sent a letter to season-ticket holders expressing disappointment in the postseason finish. [Paul Driscoll | Times]

Vinik’s management style of putting qualified people in place and not interfering is part of why he is considered one of the best owners in any league.

Vinik is part of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who in 2017 loaned $12 million to Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Vinik’s email is the latest example of how the organization has reached out to fans since one of the best regular seasons in league history ended with four straight playoff losses.

Immediately after Game 4 ended, the team posted this on its Twitter account:

That tweet, with so much more contrition than fans typically see from teams, especially soon after a loss, immediately made waves.

Its 6,700 retweets are even more than Columbus got for a tweet about making the playoffs’ second round for the first time.

The Lightning also took out a full-page ad in the Tampa Bay Times immediately after the series with a letter to fans signed by the players.

“You truly are the Thunder behind the Lightning – that makes our abrupt playoff exit sting that much more,” the players’ letter read.

At his season-wrapup news conference, BriseBois started with, “I cannot overstate my level of disappointment” and called for humility while the Lightning licks its wounds.

Overall, the organization has shown contrition in reaching out to fans after the worst playoff collapse in NHL history (the Lightning was the first team to be swept after winning the regular season).

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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