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Lightning 'couldn't be more proud' to host 2018 NHL All-Star Game

'Dream came true' for Commissioner Gary Bettman, Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said whenever NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman comes to Amalie Arena, he usually brings good news.

That was the case again Thursday, when Commissioner Bettman spoke about the 2018 NHL All-Star Game being played here Jan. 28.

For the third straight season, the game will feature a 3-on-3 tournament between the top players from the Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific divisions. The NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 27 will highlight the rest of the weekend events.

Tampa hosted the NHL All-Star Game in 1999, and Commissioner Bettman said Vinik's persistence and his success as Lightning owner are the primary reasons it is coming back.

Video: Bettman announces Tampa Bay to host 2018 ASG Weekend

"Jeff appeared into my office and said he dreamed of this and he dreamed of that. I always dreamed of an owner for the Tampa Bay Lightning like Jeff Vinik, and my dream came true," Commissioner Bettman said. "He said he was committed to building a world-class organization, and he did. This is a first-class organization on and off the ice."

Vinik, who is investing $3 billion in transforming downtown Tampa, gave credit to the Lightning fan base and promised an event that will showcase the city in front of a global audience.

"The support we have from our fans and this community is nothing short of incredible," Vinik said. "Coming here seven years ago, our brand was off-balanced, to say the least, and we were kind of irrelevant in the community. My message to the fans is: You deserve this All-Star Game and we couldn't be more proud to have it here in January."

All-Star Weekend will coincide with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, an annual event held in Tampa since 1904. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said organizers of the festival, which averages more than 300,000 attendees and reported crowds close to 1 million in 2015, are eager to work with the NHL to integrate their respective events.

"This is going to be a balancing act. It's adding another dimension to what's already a big weekend for our community," Buckhorn said. "It's interjecting an audience, a lot of visitors that will be here for the hockey game. There will be challenges, but at the end of the day I hope fans will find a way to have a good time, find a way to enjoy this community and leave Tampa saying, 'This is an amazing city I want to get to know more about.'"

Video: Commissioner Gary Bettman on 2018 All-Star Game

Vinik has openly petitioned to be the host site of a future NHL Draft and also would like to bring an outdoor game to Tampa, likely to be played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.

"We love hosting events like this, we believe we'll have a great All-Star Game next year," Vinik said. "This city has a history of hosting major sporting events, whether it's the college football national championship game or the NCAA Women's Final Four.

"The All-Star Game will be another along the way, and we'd love to host an outdoor game as soon as possible and we'd love to host the draft. We think we'd do a great job for the NHL. We love to showcase our city, it's a great place to live, and we want people to know that."

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