Although it’s not official yet, it’s looking like the NHL All-Star weekend could be returning to the Tampa Bay area.
According to a report by Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports, the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the league’s All-Star festivities for the first time since 1999 when Team North America prevailed against Team World.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 16, 2017
A lot has changed since the last All-Star Game held on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The Lightning morphed from a laughingstock to a well-respected franchise. Amalie Arena is on its fourth different name. It was originally the Ice Palace during the last All-Star Weekend held in Tampa. The NHL has expanded to 31 teams. There’s a strong chance the league won’t participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik reportedly made no secret to the NHL his desire to host a major NHL event such as the All-Star tournament or the NHL Entry Draft. In that same article from December 2016, the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith wrote:
“A few league representatives visited Tampa last month as part of a multi-city scouting tour for potential sites for the All-Star Game, draft and outdoor games, including the annual New Year’s Winter Classic, among other events.”
Although an outdoor game in Florida is a long shot (hello, winter humidity), hosting an All-Star weekend or the draft here would be a great idea.
Vinik invested heavily in both his team and the Tampa Bay area. He poured his own money into renovating Amalie Arena and building up the surrounding area. The NHL big wigs have taken notice of this over the years. It’s only natural that he be rewarded for bringing the Lightning back from the doldrums of its previous ownership.
A delay on any sort of announcement about the All-Star weekend reignited belief that the league would still try to find a way to participate in next February’s Olympics. However, if the NHL confirms this report, it would appear the All-Star tournament is alive and well and the league is closing the door on Olympic participation for 2018.