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Vinik and Leiweke discuss visions for Lightning

Thursday, 02.03.2011 / 8:01 PM / NHL Insider

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Vinik and Leiweke discuss visions for Lightning
Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik and CEO Tod Leiweke were guests Thursday on the "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" to discuss their visions for the team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have made plenty of news this week, for all the right reasons.

On Monday, owner Jeff Vinik and CEO Tod Leiweke, along with general manager Steve Yzerman, revealed a long-term vision for the Tampa Bay organization that included the unveiling of a new logo plus home and road jerseys.

On Tuesday, Vinik and his wife announced a donation of more than $10 million over the next five years through the Lightning Foundation to deserving community heroes and charity partners in Tampa Bay.

Capping off a busy three days, the Lightning on Wednesday announced a privately funded $35 million transformation of the St. Pete Times Forum.

Vinik and Leiweke were guests Thursday on the "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" to discuss their visions for the team -- both on the ice and in the community.

"When I bought the Lightning, one of the first things I said was to make it a world-class organization," Vinik said. "The second thing I said was it was going to take great people to help me do that. I knew I could not run the organization, I should not be picking hockey players, I should not be developing marketing plans, but it was important to hire some of the best people in the business. And Tod Leiweke, as CEO, and Steve Yzerman as GM, (are) two of the best guys in their respective fields. Tod is very experienced and has been terrific running sports teams in the past, and Steve is just one of the legends of hockey and is going to be a great GM.

"What we released this week is several months of plans, and it's a very exciting time because we're rolling this out for everybody in the community here -- our corporate partners, our employees, our players and most importantly, our fans."

Leiweke, who came to the Lightning from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, was asked what he saw as the immediate objectives when he first joined the Lightning.

"The fans had had a hard time because there had been some challenges here recently, so it was a matter of really putting a huge welcome out and saying to the fans, 'Hey, we're open for business, we want you back,'" Leiweke said.

Vinik and Leiweke met over the summer and, through exchanging ideas and getting feedback in the community through talking to fans and surveys, came up with a vision statement emphasizing the Tampa Bay region, customer service at the St. Pete Times Forum and the general values of integrity and hard work the Lightning want their organization to represent.

Leiweke dispelled the notion the change in jersey design was merely a ploy to sell merchandise by pointing out every season ticket-holder will receive a free jersey with a microchip embedded in the sleeve that will entitle them to 25 percent discounts on concessions and 35 percent off on merchandise at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"When I bought the Lightning, one of the first things I said was to make it a world-class organization. The second thing I said was it was going to take great people to help me do that."
-- Lightning owner Jeff Vinik

Devices that read those microchips will be just one small part of the planned arena renovations. A party deck will also be put in on the upper level, as well as another outdoor deck overlooking the city of Tampa. Suites will be improved, as will the seats in the upper bowl, and a new west entrance will be added.

"We think our fans in general deserve a much better environment," Vinik said.

With the Lightning currently in first place in the Southeast Division and bidding for their first playoff berth in three seasons, happier times have clearly come to Tampa Bay. It's the intention of Vinik and Leiweke, in tandem with Yzerman, to make sure things continue along that path.

"Steve, Jeff and I have a great thing going, and I couldn't think of two nicer guys to be doing this with," Leiweke said. "I was pretty happy in Seattle running the Seahawks as the CEO, but I love the game of hockey, always have, and so the chance to work with these two guys is terrific. We all know what our job is, we stay in our lanes and it's just been awesome."

Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals