Tampa Bay Lightning rumor: team to host 2018 NHL All-Star Game


For the first time in 19 years, and second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Lightning could host the NHL All-Star Game in 2018.

It’s been a while since the Tampa Bay Lightning organization hosted an NHL-wide event, and for the first time in nearly two decades, it could host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game. In 1999, the Lightning hosted the event at what was then called the Ice Palace, still considered new at the time.

Now, after years of upgrades and renovations, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a world class venue, Amalie Arena, to host one of the top league events of the season. The organization hasn’t yet hosted the NHL Entry Draft, but the All-Star Game is just as popular, more so, even.

Nothing is official, though, and the league nor the team has commented on the deal yet.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet weighed in on the situation.

"“One of the reasons some people still hold out hope for Olympic participation is that no All-Star Game has been set for next season. However, it does sound like there are plans for one. At this past season’s All-Star Weekend, it was believed the next one would be held in a Western Conference city, but there are rumblings the league went southeast instead.”"

As it appears, the league initially planned to host the annual event in a Western Conference city, but decided to look at other options and could stick with a location in the southeast, like Tampa. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported, “A few NHL 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.”

Tampa Bay has been in the mix and is considered a strong contender for hosting the event and others. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has lobbied with top NHL officials like Commissioner Gary Bettman to have big league events come to Tampa, and he’s done his part to make the team and arena more visible around the league.

Since Vinik bought and took over the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in 2010, he’s invested $100 million in the arena and even more toward developing the downtown and Channelside areas. His commitment to the region and organization should be one of the convincing factors in bringing another top sporting event to the city.

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And it’s not like the Tampa Bay area hasn’t hosted any other big events before. Just this past January, Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium hosted the annual Outback Bowl, a major college football bowl game around New Year’s Day, and only a week later, the stadium held the NCAA College Football Playoff championship game.

In addition, the region has hosted four Super Bowls, two Stanley Cup Finals, a World Series, two Frozen Fours, two NCAA women’s Final Fours, an international women’s soccer tournament, several NCAA March Madness tournament games and many more events. Having this experience hosting big sporting events like these plays a role, said NHL executive vice president Steve Mayer.

Last year, Nashville hosted a very successful and popular All-Star Game in 2016, and the weekend in Music City came away with rave reviews. It’s a great example of how a city in the Southeastern U.S. can host a top NHL event like this one. Tampa, another city in the southeast, is capable of doing the same — again.

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Though it has not officially been confirmed yet, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a shot at hosting the 2018 NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena. The league is still discussing it’s plans for next year and deciding whether to allow players to attend the Winter Olympics or not, both of which could delay the decision. But if the NHL decides to put on another game for its top stars, Tampa appears to be the front-runner to host the event.