The Tampa Bay Lightning is an ice hockey team located in Tampa, Florida. It fights in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the NHL. Actually speaking, the franchise owes its foundation to the legendary Canadian hockey player Phil Esposito. In 1989, the NHL announced its plans to expand to 28 teams by 2000, so Esposito instantly decided that his place of residence, the sunny city of Tampa in Florida, would be perfect for a new hockey franchise. To begin with, Esposito persuaded the NHL authorities to hold an exhibition game in Tampa, between the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, edged Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. The game took place in September 1990 at the Florida Suncoast Dome (a large indoor baseball arena). Though the result wasn’t the greatest NHL game ever played, a record crowd of more than 25,000 was happy to witness it. A month later, the NHL sent inspectors to Tampa, who issued a verdict that the NHL would be able to bring the ice hockey franchise to this region. Five weeks later, the town officially received the right to join the League for the 1992-1993 season.
However, after being awarded the franchise, Phil Esposito faced certain problems, including the lack of money to pay the entry fee. The initial sponsors quickly changed their minds, and Esposito rushed to find new benefactors. He was lucky to come across them in Japan. Kokusai Green’s owners invited Phil Esposito to their headquarters in Tokyo to discuss the details of the deal. As it is said, further business meetings took place in Ginza (Tokyo’s most famous shopping and entertainment district) usually in hotel bars and almost always at night. Besides, there were rumors that the company planned to use the team as a part of the money-laundering scheme. Then, the Japanese multimillionaire Takashi Okubo invested in Tampa and purchased the rights to the team from Phil Esposito who served as the team’s general manager until 1998.
By the way, Phil Esposito created the name for the NHL rookie. The new franchise was named the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is a large harbor with cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater located around it. As for lightning, they say that light show rampages through the sky in the area of the bay more frequent than anywhere else in the world. As Esposito claimed, the team’s name crossed his mind during a severe storm, when hundreds of nonstop lightning flashes lit up the sky. He depicted the silver lightning in the primary Tampa Bay Lightning’s logo.
From 1992-2012, the Lightning was qualified for the playoff only once. In the early years, the franchise owners invested nearly $ 125 million in the club, but it didn’t generate a dime of revenue. The team was on the brink of bankruptcy. No wonder, since the owners didn’t pay taxes and reduced the operating costs to a minimum. Constant losses led to further erosion of spectator interest, which was fading with every coming year, and at last, reached a critical point. The team management really tried to do their best to bring fans back to the stands. The Tampa bosses even signed an exclusive contract with Canadian goaltender Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in the NHL. Things were so bad that for a while Phil Esposito’s brother – Tony was the only club scout.
Before the 1998-99 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning experienced significant changes. The team was sold to American millionaire Art Williams. The changes also occurred in the club’s management: Esposito brothers were fired; team veterans were replaced in favor of a young core of players.
In 2009, the team was sold to Bostonian banker Jeffrey Vinik.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s official mascot is Thunderbug, the anthropomorphic black-and-yellow lightning bug.
Tampa Bay Lightning logo history
One of the youngest NHL franchises, established in 1993, had several variants of the logo, which was detailed and modified three times. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning emblem unveiled in 2012 completely differed from the previous ones.
1992 – 2001
Phil Esposito himself was the designer of the original logo. It featured a white lightning bolt inside a gray circle. Due to the dark shadows, the lightning had a three-dimensional effect. The circle was trimmed with white and blue outline. Besides, it included “Tampa Bay”, and “Lightning” wordmarks at the top and the bottom respectively. Despite different fonts, both wordmarks were blue-scripted letters with a thin black outline.
2001 – 2007
There weren’t any major changes to the 2002 crest design. The new Tampa Bay Lightning logo brought about darker shades of blue and grey without changing the shape of the elements. In particular, a bright shade of blue was replaced by a dark one, both in the name and in the outline.
2007 – 2011
On August 25, 2007, the designers introduced the third logo for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though resembling the previous logos, it had a more refined, modern and professional look. The “Lightning” wordmark disappeared, due to which the image became cleaner. The blue-scripted “Tampa Bay” wordmark now had a bolder white outline.
2011 – present
The 2012 logo update was initiated by Jeff Vinik, the new owner of the franchise. He expected to turn his club into a world-class hockey team, so there wasn’t just a need for a plain hockey logo, but for a successful brand identity. The current Tampa Bay Lightning’s logo looks simple and minimalistic. The name of the team is no longer scripted on it. White lightning is crossing a dark blue circle. It is a rather dark and saturated blue color, which creates a good and catchy contrast when used with white.