ESPN The Magazine’s Tenth Annual “Ultimate Standings” issue hit the newsstands this past week and the Tampa Bay Lightning were named the seventh best franchise in sports and the second best in the NHL, behind the sixth ranked Phoenix Coyotes The Lightning were the top ranked franchise in Tampa Bay. This gives the Bolts two straight years of top ten finishes.
ESPN The Magazine’s Ultimate Standings seeks to determine a ranking of all professional sports franchises according to how much they give back to fans for their invested time, money and emotion.
The rankings are an analysis of a team’s efficiency in spending fan money as compared to its on-field performance. The analysis also considers feedback in 25 categories voted on by over 70,000 fans across the nation in polls on ESPN.com.
122 NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB teams were ranked in order, based on a weighted average of scores in these eight categories: “bang for the buck”, players, fan relations, affordability, stadium experience, ownership, title track and coaching. The Bolts placed highest in the “fan relations” category.
What does this mean? It means that owner Jeffrey Vinik’s quest to make the Lightning a “world class organization,” on the ice and in the community is becoming a reality. Vinik has put his money where his mouth is and the fans are pleased.
The stadium experience has been upgraded through Vinik’s $42 million renovation project and the addition of a $5 million, state of the art scoreboard.
The Bolts owner gave the team a face-lift and brought in a new logo and colors.
Vinik has endeared himself and his team to the Tampa Bay area community through donating over $10 million and 4,000 hours of volunteer work every year.
The fans of Hockey Bay are showing up! The average attendance in 2009-10 was 15, 497 per game. Last season the Tampa Bay Times Forum sold out 20 times and the average attendance per Lightning game was 18,468.
This accompanied by a competitive team on the ice and employing the new “Face of the NHL”, Steven Stamkos, has made the Tampa Bay Lightning not only an up and coming NHL franchise, but one of the stellar franchises in all of professional sports.
About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?