3 Things the Lightning Should Be Thankful For

The Tampa Bay Lightning are celebrating their 30th anniversary this season. So, this Thanksgiving it’s time to reflect on their young season and what they should be thankful for in 2022-23. After winning two consecutive Stanley Cups and advancing to the Final in three consecutive seasons, the Lightning players could have become complacent and the fans indifferent to success. However, it takes more than the talent on the ice to compete year after year. It takes the entire organization to create a winning culture.

Besides two diamond-studded championship rings, here are three things that the Lightning should be most thankful for.

Coach Jon Cooper

When former general manager Steve Yzerman hired Jon Cooper to take over as the head coach of the Lightning in March 2013, many people didn’t know who he was since he had not been a former player nor had he coached in the NHL before. Nevertheless, he has built a winning team in Tampa, but he wouldn’t have been able to keep his team in playoff contention without respect from his players and assistant coaches.

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Cooper’s list of accomplishments grows every year. Last season, he became the fastest coach in NHL history to win 400 games and holds a .649 career winning percentage. Besides wins and losses, the players rely on his positive attitude to keep them motivated. For example, when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Lightning to win the 2022 Stanley Cup, he gathered his coaching staff for the postgame news conference. After praising the Avalanche, he simply stated, “We’re not done.”

Why the Lightning should be thankful for coach Cooper: because he keeps the team focused, determined, and prepared to win each game.

Owner Jeff Vinik

The Lightning are a model NHL team, and one of the most admired franchises in all of sports. The person most responsible for this distinction is owner Jeff Vinik.

Owner Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 26: Owner Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 2010, Vinik bought the Lightning for $170 million. At that point, the struggling team was six years removed from its first Stanley Cup and rumors were circulating about possibly moving the franchise. 12 years later, they are perennial playoff contenders and enjoy financial stability.

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Last May, when the Lightning were chasing their third championship, the team was named “Team of the Year” by the Sports Business Journal. The Tampa Bay Business Journal also stated that the 2021-22 season “marked the fourth consecutive year Tampa was in the top three in overall league attendance. New season-ticket revenue totaled $5.7 million, while sponsorship revenue numbers were 120% of the NHL league average, including a 10% year-over-year increase.”

Besides building revenue, Vinik was determined to entrench the Lightning into the local community so he started Community Heroes. The program donates $50,000 at each home game to charities and community organizations in the Tampa Bay area. Last year, he pledged $10 million to continue supporting the program for five more years.

In addition to the Community Heroes program, Vinik is solidifying his legacy by investing in the downtown area, with a $3.5 billion commercial real estate development project called Water Street Tampa. The first phase has been successful with 70 to 80 percent of the one million square feet of office space having already been leased.

Another example of Vinik’s generosity and devotion to the team was displayed when Hurricane Ian was barreling toward Tampa Bay during the preseason. His concern was not only for the team but their families as they moved their training camp to Nashville. Coach Cooper humorously stated, “Everybody is trying to look after their families, everybody had to be brought here [including] pets. It was like [team owner Jeff] Vinik’s ark, bringing everybody here.”

Why the Lightning should be thankful for owner Jeff Vinik: He not only made the team respectful and saved the franchise from ruin, but he is also devoted to the team and the community.

The Lightning’s Fan Base

Thirty years ago, the Lightning didn’t know what to expect when they began their first season in the NHL. The Ottawa Senators, who was the other expansion team in 1992-93, is now up for sale and there is no guarantee that they will stay in the Canadian capital.

However, it was obvious from the beginning that Lightning fans loved their hockey. Although during the “dark days” of several losing seasons, team instability, and poor management, fan support declined. But since then, they have put a winning team on the ice and the fans have held up their end of the bargain by supporting their team. In fact, the Lightning hold the longest sellout streak in the NHL—stretching all the way back to March of 2015.

Corey Perry of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with the fans.
Corey Perry of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with the fans (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Lightning players realized how much they appreciated the fans during the pandemic when they won the Stanley Cup in an empty arena. The following year, the league still limited the number of fans who could attend games, including the playoffs, when they defeated the Montréal Canadiens at Amalie Arena to capture their second consecutive championship.

Why the Lightning should be thankful for the fans: Selling out 290 consecutive home games.

There are many reasons why the Lightning should be thankful this season. For starters, they have survived 30 years and have increased attendance at games since those early years. In addition to the talent on the ice, the Lightning organization keeps the team competitive and there is no reason to believe this will end anytime soon.

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