Hopefully better times are ahead for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jeff Vinik, an investment manager, has signed a contract to buy the Lightning from OK Hockey. The purchase would include a leasing agreement for the St. Pete Times Forum and the acreage around it.
The deal is still pending the approval of the National Hockey League Board of Governors, who is scheduled to make a decision in three to four weeks, but no complications are expected. Vinik is also a minority owner in the Boston Red Sox organization and a former manager of Fidelity’s Magellan Fund.
Ever since the current owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie, purchased the struggling Lightning in 2008, the players, the fans, and management haven’t been able to gel. The combination of poor management decisions and a horrible economy have hurt the Lightning and their fan following. One of those bad management decisions was the hiring of Barry Melrose to coach the Lightning in 2008. Melrose only lasted 16 games. The Lightning had the worst league record in 2008, and the second to worst record in 2009. The Tampa Bay area has also suffered from one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Some parts of the Bay area recorded unemployment rates as of 12.7% in 2009. The combination of poor record and high unemployment has lead to poor attendance.
Recently the Lightning have turned it around and have a slim chance at the playoffs. They're on a three-game winning streak and are 9-1-2 in their last 13 games. They have an overall record of 25-21-11 and are second in their division, which would qualify them for the playoffs were they to start tomorrow.