Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization got a text message yesterday morning that they needed to be at a surprise meeting at 9am. They found out as did the fans that the meeting was to tell them that the Lightning had been sold. The sale caught everyone, even comishioner Gary Bettman, off guard because no one knew it was close, but everyone knew that Bill Davidson was looking to move the team. Davidson has been complaining that he has been losing money on the team and last year hired some business analysts to find the value of the team and get it going on a sale.
Davidson was a great owner for the Lightning and brought a Stanley Cup to Tampa, but he wanted out and he found owners that wanted in. The group that bought the team, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, is headed by Doug MacClean, Jeff Sherrin, and Oren Kowles. Hockey fans know MacClean who is a former coach, GM, and owner in the NHL. Sherrin is into real estate and Koules is a Hollywood producer. The best news that the new group gave was that there is a 0% chance that this team will be moved from Tampa Bay. All three owners either live in Tampa or will be moving to Tampa and intend on being heavily involved in the organization. The owners also said that Jay Feester and John Torterella will be retained as GM and coach, which is a great sign for Lightning fans.
Kowles is the producer behind the Saw series and has been a hockey fan his whole life. Kowles has said that he has some great ideas for better marketing and helping to get the Lightning out there more. The owners also talked about developing the land that surrounds the St. Pete Times forum, which should have been done a while ago. These owners seem excited and ready to get down to business. Its pretty easy to see why they wanted to buy this team as it the third best team in the league for attendance and the Tampa Bay area has embraced this team and created rabid fans. These owners are passionate about hockey just like the Lightning fans and they will connect better with fans and be more involved in day to day business.
Bill Davidson was a great owner for the Lightning and brought this town a Stanley Cup and for that fans will forever be grateful. That being said, Davidson was not a hands on guy and just never related to the fans. This group seems like they will relate better and fans should be excited by these new owners.