SBD/Issue 121/Franchises

Jeff Vinik Addresses Media For First Time Since Acquiring Lightning

Vinik Meets With Media
To Discuss Lightning

New Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik during his first appearance in front of the local media on Friday attempted to "put distance between himself and the previous owners, who had serious financial problems and characterized themselves as owner-operators," according to Damian Cristodero of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Vinik said, "This franchise is not going to be restrained by financial resources. You don't want me running the team on a day-to-day basis. You want a terrific, professional CEO doing that." He addressed the media and a small group of fans on Friday in "front of a banner with the team's new marketing tag line: Bring It Back." Vinik said that the "it" referred to the "passion with which the area embraced the team when it won the 2004 Stanley Cup." The team's season-ticket renewal brochure "even has several pictures of the Cup, references to which the team has downplayed the past two seasons." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman introduced Vinik, "something he did not do in June 2008 for previous owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie." Bettman said, "This owner has the resources, the ability and the commitment. This franchise is on stable, strong footing." Vinik said he currently is searching for a "CEO to 'preside over the organization' and conduct a top-to-bottom evaluation." He said that he has "no timetable except to make the hire as soon as possible." Vinik noted that the hire "won't necessarily be a hockey guy, but someone with 'great business experience'" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/6).

GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: In St. Petersburg, John Romano wrote it is "probably fair to say Jeff Vinik did not make hearts flutter or pulses race in his first appearance as the new owner of the Lightning." He seemed "a little shy" and "a little reserved." However, he seemed "sturdy and serious," leading a franchise in "desperate need of a father figure." Bettman stressed to fans, "Don't rush to judgment on him. Let him do it the right way." Vinik and Bettman both reiterated that the Lightning "will stay in Tampa Bay," and they "left no room for equivocation." Vinik's family "will remain in Boston, where his children are in school, but Vinik said he will buy a home in Tampa and spend much of the season in town." Romano noted Vinik seems to have "zero debt on the franchise, and that is going to have a dramatic impact on the way things are run." Vinik: "I wouldn't have bought this team if I didn't think it could be successful in every way" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/6). Also in St. Petersburg, Gary Shelton wrote Vinik has "some small shoes to fill," because the Tampa Bay area's team owners are "competing for the title of worst owner ever." Shelton ranks the region's sports owners from best to worst (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/7).

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