Esposito, St. Louis, Lecavalier Named Inaugural Class of Lightning Hall of Fame - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Esposito, St. Louis, Lecavalier Named Inaugural Class of Lightning Hall of Fame

Esposito, St. Louis, Lecavalier Named Inaugural Class of Lightning Hall of Fame

After more than three decades of existence and three Stanley Cup championships, the Tampa Bay Lightning have formed a franchise Hall of Fame. The news came with the selection of – you guessed it – three inaugural inductees; co-founder of the franchise, Phil Esposito, and former players Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

“After 30 years, I think tradition and Stanley Cups, three Stanley Cups and going to the finals two or three more times, it’s incredible. Incredible. And when I talk about it, I get little goose bumps,” said Esposito in a press conference.

“For me, in 2004 when they won that Stanley Cup, it was like my kid has graduated and he’s moved on, you know? But this is special for me. It really is.”

The team honored the trio on March 17th in a special ceremony for fans at Amalie Arena.


Perhaps the perfect embodiment of an expansion franchise, Martin St. Louis’ underdog identity transformed in Tampa Bay. Entering the league as an undersized, undrafted free agent, St. Louis swiftly took the NHL by storm.

The scrappy forward was not only a skilled goal scorer, but also a dynamic creator. His 642 assists are the most in franchise history (12th all-time). The Lightning archives also have Marty listed in the top three for almost every other scoring category.

St. Louis (26) and Lecavalier (4) are the only former Lightning players to have their jersey numbers retired by the team. They hang in the rafters of Amalie.


Long considered the greatest skater to wear a Bolt on his chest, Vinny Lecavalier’s time with the Lightning produced some of the most memorable moments of the franchise. As of 2023, nobody has played more games in a Lightning uniform than Vinny’s 1,037 caps. He also ranks top five in Lightning history for goals and power play goals (both 2nd), points (3rd), and assists (4th).

Maybe just as notable as his playing accolades, Lecavalier’s generosity places him in a class of his own. His legacy lives on beyond his playing days at All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete. In 2007, he donated $3 million to the hospital to construct the Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, which opened in 2010. Even after leaving the Lightning, Lecavalier continues to fundraise for the hospital and the Center, which bears his name.


Esposito, already a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is one of the greatest to ever pick up a stick. In 18 illustrious seasons in the NHL, Esposito was the first player to score 100 points in a season (126 in the 1968-69 and a career best 152 in ’70-71), racked up five Art Ross Trophies (top point scorer), two Hart Trophies for the league’s Most Valuable Player and has the 7th most goals scored in NHL history.

Over his career he suited up for three of the NHL’s Original Six: the Chicago Black Hawks, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, where he twice hoisted Lord Stanley. Then, after hanging up his skates, Esposito led the charge for the NHL’s new era of expansion, which would bring professional hockey further south than ever before. In 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning became Florida’s first NHL franchise.

“And here we are having the Hall of Fame for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Long after I’m gone, this thing will be still going, and I hope it goes forever and ever, because without a doubt, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in hockey.”

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The impact of the expansion franchise on the city of Tampa cannot be understated. Before the construction of Amalie Arena in Tampa’s Channelside District, the neighborhood was desolate, industrial and uninviting. Without Esposito’s vision to build a new arena on the waterfront, the city would perhaps not be in the midst of the downtown renaissance in which it finds itself today.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning continuously brings the thunder to this magnificent destination and the developing Water Street district,” says Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “Phil Esposito is a true Tampa Bay champion whose vision of the Lightning from the very start brought genuine pride and excitement to the area.”

Phil, alongside his brother and fellow Hockey Hall of Famer, Tony Esposito, blazed a trail for ice hockey in the Sunshine State. A second expansion team, the Florida Panthers, followed the next season in 1993.

“I realized you’re only as good as the people you hire around you. And when you play on a team, you’re only as good as your teammates are good. Individually, you can do things, but if you’re going to win, it’s collectively and it’s a team effort. That’s the way I looked at it from the very beginning, said Esposito.

“Sure, I got the credit and all that other stuff, somebody’s got to get it.”

By Jordan Ogren.

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