The Lightning Mount Rushmore
While there has been a hiatus in the sports world for the last three months we have looked at the best players of the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
You can check out those articles with the links at the bottom of the page.
With word that the Lightning is allowing players to resume skating at Amalie Arena, now is a good chance to put some key people in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning on our Mount Rushmore.
I’ll admit we broke the rules for this one. Our last two articles was focused on players, but with the Lightning, we included some folks that were not players, but have helped make hockey the number two sport in Tampa behind the Buccaneers.
Number four on our Lightning Mount Rushmore is Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier was the first overall pick of the Lightning in 1998 and the Number one pick in the 1998 NHL draft. Lecavalier played his first 14 season with the Lightning before having his contract bought out after the 2012-13 season.
Lecavalier was a key component during the Lightning’s cup run of 2003-04 and assisted on the cup clinching goal.
Lecavalier won the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer in 2007.
Lecavalier played in four all-star games with the lightning and had his number four jersey retired on February 12, 2018.
Lecavalier had 421 goals in his career finishing with 949 points. Hilo’s best season was the 2006-07 when he led the league in scoring with 52 goals, 56 assists and finished with 108 points.
Number three on our Mount Rushmore is Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik.
We would not be enjoying hockey in Tampa if not for Jeff Vinik.
After the Stanley Cup run of 2003-04, that Lightning team was not able to stay together for a number of reasons and the slide to teh abyss began.
Jeff Vinik purchased the tie am from Oren Koules for $170 million in 2010 and he began to slowly rebuild the Lightning.
One of his best decisions was hiring Steve Yzerman to be the GM of the team.
The Lightning under Vinik have had great success on the ice. He has done everything you want an owner to do, except for bring a Stanley Cup to Tampa.
The Lightning were teetering on the brink of moving out of town or the worst case secenario being folded.
The Lightning had just over 4,000 season ticket holders when Vinik bough the team, and now boast over 15,000 season ticket holders.
The Lightning are an example of how an NHL team should be run with Vinik at the helm.
NHL commissioner Gary bettman has praised Vinik on the way the Lightning franchise is run and has had prospective buyers for other franchises come to Tampa to see how a first class organization is run.
Number two on our Mount Rushmore is Marty St. Louis.
St. Louis was an undrafted free agent from the university of Vermont and was told no more times than you have told your kids no.
The Lightning took a chance on this small forward signing him to a contract in the summer of 2000.
No one would ever question his heart, determination and ability. it was his size that people looked at. The five foot eight right winger would go onto play over 1,000 games in his NHL career, score over 1,000 points in a magnificent career that would end with St. Louis being inducted into teh Hockey Hall Of Fame in 2018.
With the Lightning, St. Louis played in 972 games collecting 953 points and still holds the franchise for game winning goals with 64.
None bigger than in game six of the Stanley Cup finals in Calgary, in double overtime to help force a seventh game in Tampa.
St. Louis played in six All-Star games and lead the NHL in scoring in 2003-04, and in 2012-13.
he won the Hart Trophy as MVP in 2004, and was a three time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy three times.
St. Louis had his number 26 jersey retired by the Lightning in 2017.
Number one on our Lightning Mount Rushmore Is Phil Esposito.
Without Phil Esposito there is no hockey in Tampa.
Esposito who helped get the Lightning franchise off the ground also served as the teams General Manager the first seven seasons.
Esposito was the driving force to bring hockey to the Tampa area. Esposito named the team the Lightning at a friends barbecue according to NHL.com. After watching a thunderstorm, his friends mother said to Esposito “You should name the team the Lightning.”
Esposito said “Thats it. Thats the name of the team.
Esposito also made history when he signed the first female to an NHL contract Manon Rheaume.
Esposito still calls some games on the radio with play by play man Dave Mishkin.
In the years to follow, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, John Tortorella, and Jon Cooper could all find their way to the Lightning Mount Rushmore.
This is still a young franchise and a lot of hockey yet to be played in the years to come.
Check out who Tampa Bay Pro Sports put on the Rays and Buccaneers Mount Rushmore.