TAMPA — Jeff Vinik started by wishing people a Happy New Year.
To the Lightning owner, the start of the season represents a more relevant passage of time than Jan. 1.
He said the offseason always feels too long and the season opener too far away, so this year isn’t any different. But he cited something Victor Hedman said last season about the 2015 Stanley Cup Final loss to Chicago:
“I don’t think we ever get over it,” he said. “It’s tough, we had a really good team. We had a really good opportunity and for whatever reason things didn’t go our way. We’re disappointed by it. We’ll learn from it and hopefully we can have a better outcome.”
Jeff Vinik is part of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who have loaned $15 million to Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.
The Lightning didn’t feel a hit business wise from the first-round sweep, according to Vinik. They still expect to sell out, for which he credited the “tremendous” fan base that is so good to the Lightning.
Vinik, who spends about half of his time traveling for business or hockey, sees growth of the brand across the country. He sees three times as many Lightning fans in other cities as he did five years ago.
“People know about the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Vinik said. “They know about the community and the fan support here.”
He feels a great sense of pride in that.
Vinik is looking forward to the Lightning’s trip to Sweden in November, a good chance for the team and for the organization growing its brand.
“Hopefully we’ll have other experiences like that, Mr. Commissioner,” Vinik said leaning into a microphone, “like an outdoor game in the not-too-distant future.”
He’s been trying to bring an outdoor game to Tampa since he bought the Lightning 10 years ago. Dallas will host one this year. Is it encouraging or frustrating to see one in a location outside the north?
“I noticed it,” he said simply.
Vinik also spoke highly of Julien BriseBois in his first year as general manager, saying he couldn’t be more pleased with the job he is doing.
“He’s not Steve Yzerman, he’s different from Steve Yzerman,” Vinik said. “He’s Julien BriseBois. He came in and he’s confident. He knew he wanted to do the job. It’s been seamless.”