Tampa Bay Lightning look to expand hockey great Phil Esposito's role

espo.jpgNow, I don’t live in Canada so I might not be fully qualified to lead this discussion but that being said, there are two championship hockey bumper stickers. In one corner is the much-loved “My other car is a Zamboni.” Its opposition is the classic Boston Bruins sticker that read, “Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound.”

If I were to give a front office gold star to any one organization this summer, it would go to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their shiny new GM Steve Yzerman. They keep making refreshingly competent decisions as they rapidly rebuild the moribund franchise – and while details are a bit scarce – reports indicate that they’ll try to give beloved hockey figure Phil Esposito a more prominent role with the team.

TampaBay.com’s Damian Cristodero has more.

There were no specifics given by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, just an acknowledgment Lightning founder Phil Esposito might be in line for an expanded role with the organization. And while Vinik said the final decision will be up to new CEO Tod Leiweke, Vinik sounded as if Esposito could be an asset on the community and marketing side of the organization.

“We want him involved with this team,” Vinik said this week. “We want him out in the community. We want him involved with us. He’s a great ideas person.”

Expanding Esposito’s role from his long-time gig as an analyst on radio broadcasts of Lightning home games, a job for which he has said he never has signed a contract, makes sense for an organization ready to embrace its past and make a better effort to market the team both in the St. Pete Times Forum and Tampa Bay area.

Forgive me for gushing about the job Tampa Bay is doing right now, but they keep making shrewd moves. Embracing hockey icons is a sign that an organization is savvy to public relations and the game’s rich history. Just look at the difference with the Chicago Blackhawks; in the same time that the team went from the hockey basement to its upper ranks, they also honored old greats such as Bobby Orr and Stan Mikita.

Good on Yzerman & Co. for another subtle yet smart move in an impressive initial summer.

Scroll Down For:

    Kane scores OT-winner, caps Islanders’ bumpy start in Brooklyn

    Patrick Kane
    1 Comment

    On paper, it’s the perfect way to kick off meaningful hockey in Brooklyn, as the New York Islanders faced the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

    In reality, there were some highs and lows, culminating with Patrick Kane scoring a power-play overtime-winner to give Chicago a 3-2 (OT) win.

    The Barclays Center crowd was going to be a big part of the story one way or another, but even by building-opening standards, the audience made some waves.

    Indeed, Kane was greeted with some jeers during his first road appearance of the 2015-16 season, though he didn’t sound surprised.

    (There were other controversial chants, apparently.)

    Speaking of the crowd, it may not have been the greatest turnout:

    ESPN goes way, way in depth on how the change of locale was received, by the way.

    It wasn’t a perfect night inside the rink, either, as there weren’t exactly rave reviews about ice quality. New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple compared the ice to a “slushy” and “soup,” with an anonymous Islander (or Islanders) describing the conditions as “awful.”

    Kane was pretty diplomatic about it, for what it’s worth.


    So, no, it was not a perfect night for the Islanders.

    They probably envisioned a teeming, perfectly mannered crowd. Management likely expected Jaroslav Halak to be in net, too.

    Sometimes breaking ground is often about overcoming those early stumbles, though, and maybe the best review is to parallel the on-ice results: the Isles at least got a point out of it.

    Let’s not forget that there are some cool perks that come with this situation, even if the specifics may vary.

    If you want even more information/photos/etc., you’d probably do well to check out #IslesOpeningNight.

    Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

    1 Comment

    For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

    The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

    They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

    It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

    Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
    Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
    Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
    Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

    Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.