-- Jay Feaster, the architect of the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning
of 2004, returned to the scene of his – and the Lightning's – greatest triumph on Thursday. It was Feaster's first trip to the St. Pete Times Forum since becoming the general manager of the Calgary Flames
a year ago.
Feaster took the reigns as the general manger of the Lightning in 2002 and led the Lightning to the franchise's only championship two years later. He resigned in 2008 with three years remaining on his contract, citing difficulties co-existing with then-Lightning owners Len Barrie
and Oren Koules.
"What the people inside the organization went through in those two years, I don't wish that on my worst enemy," Feaster said. "That was, for me, the toughest part; to see what it did to the people."
The current ownership and management, however, drew raves from Feaster.
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"I'm so happy for the people here; I'm happy for the staff," Feaster said. "I think the world of Jeff Vinik -- I think he's a great owner, and I think the world of Tod Leiweke and Steve Yzerman
. To have good people running this organization, I'm thrilled for the fans, the players and most importantly, for the staff."
Feaster had to make his way past well-wishers who lined up to welcome him back and reflected on the differences between his position in Tampa Bay and his current job in Calgary.
"We're enjoying Calgary," Feaster said. "The biggest difference is that Calgary is a veteran team. There are a different set of expectations on a team like that. We've spent to the cap in Calgary, and that makes expectations different. In Tampa we had a lot of guys from a lot of different teams, castoffs, and it was a matter of everyone growing together while here it's an older group. Now, we're trying to work some of our younger players into the lineup.
"To be competitive and make the playoffs was what we were striving for back then in Tampa. In Calgary, when ownership steps up and spends to the salary cap, they expect more"
Perhaps the biggest adjustment is getting comfortable under the microscope that is Calgary hockey.
"In Tampa, we always knew that the No. 1 sport was football; not just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the University of Florida and Florida State University and even the University of South Florida. In Calgary, it's hockey. It's 24/7.
"I remember one game when we came from behind to beat Colorado here; that was pretty exciting and I got so exuberant that I smashed a pane of glass right out of the door in the press box," Feaster said. "When I was here I could do stuff like that and there was never a camera focused on me. After one year in Calgary, I've gotten better because they are always watching. I've gotten more stoic."