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The team moved into a glittering new arena, the Ice Palace (now Amalie Arena), and appeared destined for another playoff spot.
However, the Lightning suffered a devastating rash of injuries.
However, they buckled under the strain of some of the longest road trips in the NHL—their nearest division rival, the Blues, were over 1,000 miles away—and finished in last place with a record of 23–54–7 for 53 points.
This was, at the time, one of the best-ever showings by an NHL expansion team.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning are a professional ice hockey team based in Tampa, Florida.
Puppa developed back trouble that kept him out of all but four games during the season; he would only play a total of 50 games from 1996 until his retirement in 2000.
The Lightning acquired goalscorer Dino Ciccarelli from the Detroit Red Wings during the 1996 off-season, and he did not disappoint, scoring 35 goals in the 1996–97 season, with Chris Gratton notching another 30 goals.
The owner of the Lightning is Jeffrey Vinik, while Steve Yzerman serves as general manager.
The team is currently coached by Jon Cooper, who has led the team since 2013.
Petersburg-based group fronted by future Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes owners Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford, and a Tampa-based group fronted by two Hall of Famers—Phil Esposito and his brother Tony.
One of Esposito's key backers, the Pritzker family, backed out a few months before the bid, to be replaced by a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator.