Chief Executive Officer Tod Leiweke simply finished where general manager Steve Yzerman left off five months earlier.
As it turned out, Yzerman’s initiative to revamp the Tampa Bay Lightning roster over the summer with new players, a new coach and a new system believed to bring the Lightning back to prominence atop the league standings was only half of what characterized the team’s new look.
On Monday, at a news conference held on the playing surface at the St. Pete Times Forum, Leiweke completed what Yzerman started, as both men stood at the podium along with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to unveil a new logo and vision for the team, as well as revised uniforms, that the organization will begin using next season.
The uniforms, modeled by franchise stars Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos in front of attending media and Lightning employees Monday, display a cleaner, more simple and more classic look, while at the same time remain true to tradition dating back to the franchise’s roots with a lightning bolt logo inside of a tapered circle. The jerseys also feature a two-color scheme, consisting of blue and white, used to emphasize the native landscapes of the Tampa Bay region, as well as ties at the collar of the sweater that are reminiscent of the old-time hockey Original Six clubs.
“When a player pulls on the Lightning sweater, we want him to know exactly who he represents and what the mark he is wearing stands for,” Yzerman said. “The long-term goal is for the Lightning to be an iconic franchise, rich in tradition with championship values and a strong legacy.”
The Lightning will, for now, keep their third jersey with the alternate “Bolts” logo, while the new home and road jerseys will look significantly different from the current sweaters. The blue uniforms to be worn at all home games at the St. Pete Times Forum feature the isolated logo, while the away jerseys will have the logo accompanied by the words “Tampa Bay” across the top. The black and silver colors found in the current uniforms will no longer be used.
While the primary focus of the press conference centered around the new uniforms, logo and colors, a series of other announcements proved just as important and exciting at the forefront of the day’s events.
Vinik opened the press conference by thanking Yzerman for his hard work to this point in building a winning culture and a world-class hockey program, one not only evidenced by the success the team has enjoyed on the ice (as of Monday, the Lightning were third out of 30 teams in the NHL with a franchise-best 67 points though 51 games), but also through a recent poll taken by Hockey Night In Canada that saw the Lightning finish fifth when anonymous NHL players were asked which team they would most like to play for.
He then laid out the remaining schedule for the week, which includes two additional announcements centered around a five-year community commitment and an arena renovations plan to bring to fruition the organization’s goal of the St. Pete Times Forum becoming a world-class venue for both the excitement of Lightning hockey, as well as legendary concerts and events.
“We hope that the Lightning fans are as happy and excited with today’s announcement as we are,” Vinik said. “These are some bold initiatives that we announced today and we are making a statement to our fans that we are committed to them.”
That point was not driven home any harder than it was this afternoon when Lenny Simmons, a valued season ticket holder who has been attending Lightning games for 12 years, was presented with the very first new Lightning jersey.
The gesture served as a preview of the bigger initiative yet to come, in which every season ticket holder will soon be presented with an innovative jersey of their own, equipped with a microchip imbedded into the fabric designed to score Lightning fans with a 25 percent discount at arena concessions and a 35 percent discount on all team merchandise purchased within the confines of the St. Pete Times Forum.
According to Leiweke, that the Lightning are the first team in professional sports to come up with such a creative concept is a tribute to the organization’s overall and primary goal of putting fans first.
“I ultimately believe that sports teams are important to all communities,” Leiweke said. “When you’re fortunate enough to have an owner like we do in Jeff Vinik, who truly cares about what the fans think and the value they receive, you do everything in your power with the resources you have available to make the experience one that they will never forget.”
With more announcements on the way in the upcoming days, the Lightning are just getting started.