Lightning owner Jeff Vinik ready as always to get the season started

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Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik joins the pregame show to expound on his excitement for the start of the 2018-19 season, the expectations for the team and the support from the community.

- Greet once again with us, the man not only transforming this franchise but downtown Tampa. The chairman owner of the Bolts Jeff Vinik with us. Happy new year, Jeff.

- That's my line, Paul.


- Your level of anticipation and excitement as we get ready to play hockey inside?

- You know, it never gets old. Actually, I don't go in the locker room very often. Yesterday I was in with the team and I said to them, yeah, I know everybody's picking us to be one of the best teams in hockey. Have one of the best, of all the teams, chance to win the Stanley Cup. Even win the Stanley Cup.

And I said, yeah, maybe you feel a little extra pressure from that, but would you rather be picked to be one of the teams to win the Stanley Cup or would you rather be picked to not make the playoffs? So it's fantastic starting out this season. I love every game it, 82 games. I'm going to watch every one of them and I can't wait to see how it unfolds.

- You know, one of the things, of course, with that big news this summer was when Steve Yzerman stepped aside. And I'm just curious-- because Julien was here for the first eight years, did that make the decision to go with him a lot easier?

- Yeah the decision to go with Julien when Steve decided that he wanted to reduce his responsibilities couldn't have been easier. Just like when Todd Leiweke left after five years as CEO, Steve Griggs took his place. Same thing here with the transition from Steve to Julien.

Think about it. Julien has had eight years of training at Steve Yzerman University and he was with the Montreal Canadiens for nine years before that. So Julien has had 17 years of experience. When Steve Yzerman came on board he had like two or three years of experience. This guy has been ready for years, he's going to do a great job.

- When you look around downtown Tampa, lots of cranes in the air. You're a pretty busy man these days. But also here in the plaza. It's the anticipation of this, the fans. Bolt Nation's as strong as it's ever been. Talk a little bit about that.

- We have amazing support here. Support for our real estate development, but support for this team is incredible. As you know, Dave, we saw that 158 games in a year, suites. Every part of our business is very strong. The support-- the way our fans and our supporters have thrown their hearts into this organization, I can't tell you how much it means to me, the Lightning, and the players.

They notice it. They know that they're playing before a great building every night.

- Absolutely.

- You pour your heart into the community, you and Penny, in recognizing our community heroes. That program has donated over $16 million to over 400 nonprofit organizations. Tonight we'll see a lady-- Jeannine Tate-- who has helped 3,000 children become adopted. That program goes forward again this year.

- It does. Just love this program. And this one is very-- They're all special. But tonight we actually, as you said, have a woman who's been involved in thousands of adoptions. Penny, my wife, and I, one of our children is adopted. So this has special meaning to us.

But what's incredible about this program-- we're at 300-400 community heroes at this point. We find people every game who do incredible things unheralded. You know, they're not in the newspaper. They sacrifice their lives to make the experiences and conditions better for those less fortunate. It is honestly an honor to be able to be involved in this program.

- And as we get ready to let you go, you've reached out to children. Andy, am I right? We had over 100 young girls here today.

- Yes, absolutely. 100 girls on the ice. Girls hockey was non-existing a few years back. Jay Feaster and his community hockey staff has done just a tremendous job. That's where our friends start is what Jay is doing. Talk a little bit about Jay and what his program is.

- You're right. I'm very proud of the effort Jay's doing. Our whole organization with community hockey. You know what? Preaching to the choir here, but hockey is the greatest sport. I don't care that we're in Florida and we're not in Canada. There's no reason why everybody can't be a hockey fan, it's fantastic.

- Meghan Duggan, the Olympic gold medalist from Team USA, was leading the symposium today with over 100 girls on the ice. It was wonderful. And the Lightning provided all the equipment. Jeff, have a wonderful evening tonight. A tremendous season. It's always good to be with you.

- Thank you, Paul.

- Jeff Vinik, the chairman of the--