Tampa Bay makes former Orlando Magic executive Steve Griggs their new COO

There’s something about the Tampa Bay Lightning and some variation on the name Steve/Steven.

First, there’s Maurice Richard co-winner and star of the present and future Steven Stamkos. Then there is a man who is just as important to the team’s success, new general manager Steve Yzerman. The fixation on successful Steve’s continued today as the Lightning announced that former Orlando Magic and Minnesota Wild executive Steve Griggs will be the team’s new chief operating officer.

Steve Griggs has been named chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum, Chief Executive Officer Tod Leiweke announced today. Griggs joins the Lightning from the Orlando Magic, where he has served as executive vice president of sales and marketing since October, 2007. He will become the organization’s day-to-day operations leader, with an emphasis on revenue generation and brand management. Griggs will begin with the Lightning in November.

“Steve is one of the rising stars in the sports industry,” said Leiweke upon making the announcement. “His experience in the NHL, and most recently, with the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the new Amway Center, will serve us well as we work to transform the Lightning and the Times Forum under the leadership of owner Jeff Vinik.”

I understand that a lot of these front office moves are a bit obscure, so here is a little background on Griggs via the Lightning’s Web site.

In addition to overseeing all of the Magic’s sales and marketing functions, Griggs was also charged with developing and executing strategic sales and marketing efforts for the team’s new arena (Amway Center), which is set to open this fall. He established the Champions of the Community partnership for the founding partners of the building and created a digital signage platform which makes the arena one of the most technologically advanced in North America.

[snip]

Before joining the Magic, Griggs served the previous eight seasons as vice president of sales and marketing for the Minnesota Wild and its parent company, Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE). While with the Wild he was responsible for ticket sales and service, corporate sales and service, suite sales and service as well as retail operations. Under his leadership, the club posted 284 consecutive sellouts, totaling more than five million fans in the Wild’s first six seasons.

That’s a pretty impressive resume, although it seems like selling NHL hockey in Minnesota is like selling bottled water in a desert. One interesting (actually, dorky) note is that Griggs has plenty of experience working for clubs with grammatically irritating team names: the Wild, Magic and Lightning all defy sports traditions of plural team names.

It’s been an outstanding off-season for Tampa Bay. Casual fans probably won’t be conscious of the impact a guy like Griggs can have on an organization, but it seems like another solid move for a rapidly improving franchise.

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    Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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    It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

    Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

    Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
    Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

    This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

    The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

    This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

    And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

    Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

    The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

    Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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    John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

    Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

    First, take a look at the hit:

    Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

    Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

    Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

    It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

    Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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    Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

    For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

    The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

    Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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    This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

    On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

    William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

    Hnnngmgghh indeed.

    That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

    Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.