October 20, 2011

Fischler Report: Vinik the right man, with right plan

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik (right) (photo: Getty) Kudos and more kudos should be doled out to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs for delivering Jeff Vinik (Weston, Mass.) as the new owner of the Lightning.

In addition to being well-capitalized, Vinik is insightful and -- compared to many sports owners in this era -- low-key and very likeable.

With a deeply-talented team already at the top of the on-ice charts – one goal from the Stanley Cup finals last year, after a great battle with the Bruins – Vinik has brought in an experienced front office ace, Tod Leiweke.

The latter has re-branded the team colors and logo, boosted season ticket sales and allocated millions to make the St. Pete Times Forum in beautiful downtown Tampa a veritable ice palace.

As one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox, Vinik is no novice in sports. That’s the serendipity that brought him together with Jacobs in the first place, and who, in turn, planted the seed of The World’s Fastest Sport.

With the positive impact of the New England Sports Network (NESN) for the Bruins and Red Sox, press reports have the Bolts entertaining the thought of a similar combined regional sports channel with other local teams.

Keeping with the typical pattern, this might include -- at some point -- the Red Sox’ division rival, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay’s big-league ball club lives somewhat unhappily, and ironically, in the antiquated former home of the Bolts -- across the bay in St. Petersburg.

No one seems to know how, when or where the Rays long-term future will play out, but Vinik seems to have the perfect solution for the Bolts, if not for the Rays.

After all, the team plays in vibrant downtown Tampa in an arena that carries the name “St. Pete.”

Observations

* Don (Grapes) Cherry and Arron Asham have two things in common -- 1. They both like a good fight; and 2. They admit mistakes.

Cherry showed his wisdom when he apologized to Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson for errors he made in ripping the retired NHLers for their respective stances on fighting.

Meanwhile, Asham – in a postgame comment – called himself “classless.” He was referring to his taunting Jay Beagle of Washington after KO-ing the Cap in a fight. In the end, both Grapes and Ash showed a third common trait: Both have class.

Gossip

* If you’re wondering how serious the Senators’ plight is just two weeks into the season, consider this: Ottawa hockey writers are speculating on who Bryan Murray will pick if the Sens get first pick in the 2012 draft.

* All signs indicate that, by far, the No. 1 headliner in the New York Marathon will be Rangers Hall of Fame icon Mark Messier. The race, slated for Nov. 6, starts in Staten Island and concludes in Central Park, just up Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Garden.

* Some folks forget that our troops are fighting a war against terrorism overseas. Former Boston College star Nathan Gerbe has not forgotten. The Sabres announced that Gerbe will donate Sabres tickets to soldiers this season as part of the “Tickets for Troops” program. He will provide a pair of tickets to a different military member from Western New York, continuing for each of Buffalo’s regular season home games this season.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@gmail.com.