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2015-06-19 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


June 19, 2015  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Lightning’s owner proud of impact on community

By HILLEL KUTTLER JTA news service

Jeff Vinik and wife Penny at the formal groundbreaking for the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC on May 11, in the midst of the Lightning’s playoff run. The Viniks have pledged $1.5 million to the project at the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa. 
Photo by Amy Martz Jeff Vinik and wife Penny at the formal groundbreaking for the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC on May 11, in the midst of the Lightning’s playoff run. The Viniks have pledged $1.5 million to the project at the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa. Photo by Amy Martz Jeffrey Vinik, the Jewish owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, reveled in a new experience for him: his team playing in the Stanley Cup finals.

Though the Lightning fell short this year, it was a heck of a ride and only makes fans and Vinik want another shot at the cup, which the team won in 2004 under previous ownership.

Vinik and his wife, Penny, are well known in Tampa and city officials are delighted with what he has already brought to Tampa and what he plans for future development of the Channelside district. He and his wife are also supporters of the local Jewish community, recently pledging $1.5 million toward creating a new Jewish Community Center in West Tampa by renovating the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.

Vinik, 56, spoke recently with JTA, before the Stanley Cup finals against the Blackhawks were decided.

JTA: The Lightning went 50-24-8 in the regular season – among the best records in the league. What’s it like to experience these heights and then to get this far in the playoffs?

Vinik: Obviously it’s a very exciting time being an owner. We have one of the best franchises in sports here, but we also want to win. We think we have a strong team this year, played well under pressure in the playoffs, got a bounce here and there... I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished both on and off the ice. The team has competed hard... We’ve really resonated in this community. Our fans have been great, our TV ratings are running double and triple what they ever have before and it’s a fun time.

JTA: As a kid in New Jersey, did you attend any playoff games or even a Stanley Cup Finals game?

Vinik: I can’t remember exactly, but I’m sure I went to New York Rangers playoff games occasionally when I was in high school. As an adult, I’ve been to a few [Stanley Cup Finals] games, but certainly not with a team I’ve owned. Since I’ve owned the Lightning, I’ve watched the finals on TV because I love the sport of hockey.

JTA: What was the atmosphere like in your arena suite during the (Stanley Cup Finals) home opener?

Vinik: For the finals, just about all family members are joining us. That’s one of the great offshoots of what’s one of the great events that comes along. For my wife and me, there’s nothing more important than spending time with our kids and our extended family. My box is exclusively for family in the playoff games – and while the puck’s in play, we have a no-talking rule.

JTA: Do you, your kids and other relatives have favorite players on the team?

Vinik: Players are like kids, from an owner’s perspective. You love them all equally.

JTA: What do the eyes of the hockey world being on Tampa mean to the city?

Vinik: We think this is a great hockey market. I strongly believe that hockey is the best professional sport and that there’s no reason it can’t succeed or excel in warm climates. To the extent that that message gets transmitted across the country, whether our $1 billion real estate development piques some interest – I’m glad that we get that benefit. [Groundbreaking on the downtown project – surrounding the arena with offices, residences, even a medical school – will be later this year.]

JTA: What kind of interest? Do you mean that there are any obstacles to the project’s getting going?

Vinik: There are no obstacles; it’s all about economic development and jobs. If we can recruit companies to move to this area, they’ll find it’s a great place to attract and retain employees because it’s a great place to live. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase this area.

JTA: Has the Jewish community of Tampa been rallying behind the Lightning?

Vinik: I wouldn’t single out anything. One of the things we’re proud of is how broad our support is across the region. This Tampa Bay area is very diverse. It’s important that we as an organization reach out to different religions, different cultures, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job doing that. Obviously I have a number of good friends in the Jewish community behind us, and it’s greatly appreciated.

Jewish Press staff contributed to this report.

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