The NHL All-Star Game in 2018 is not a done deal, but the decision as to who will host will have to be made quickly since the game is less than a year away.What might help is if the Tampa Bay Lightning buys another elevator for Amalie Arena. Yes, that’s an unusual deal-breaker, but here’s the backstory up til now.
The 2018 NHL All-Star Game still has not been awarded to a city. Why? There usually isn’t an All-Star Game in an Olympic year, such as 2018, but the NHL didn’t decide NOT to participate in the Olympics until last month. So now, the search for an All-Star city is back on the table.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and Lightning Chairman Jeff Vinik have had several discussions about Tampa hosting the game, and reportedly we are high on the list. Mr. Vinik’s vast renovations to Amalie Arena certainly helped the cause, along with his formation of a world-class organization, one of the best in professional sports. And the city has a sterling reputation of successfully hosting championship sporting events in Tampa.
Now, to that elevator.
Media members and broadcasters have long complained about the freight elevator that is the only elevator with access to the press box on the top floor of Amalie Arena. That elevator often stops at every level, and the “freight” part means we share with food services and catering that services every level of the arena. Honestly, no one sympathizes with the media when their job seems to be inconvenienced, so a new elevator was never high on the team’s wish list.
But in 1999, when the Lightning hosted its first NHL All-Star Game, I was on that elevator headed to the press box, when it stopped at one of the other levels. Hopping on at that point was Commissioner Gary Bettman and his NHL entourage. At the next stop, food services reps entered carrying half-eaten pizzas, sandwiches, and other treats that had just been removed from some suites.
No one said anything, but never was there a more uncomfortable elevator ride than that one with the NHL’s elite… and carts full of messy pepperoni pizza and turkey sandwiches. Elevators aren’t cheap, so maybe this won’t get done. And it’s hard to believe that a freight elevator could be a deal-breaker.
Maybe it would be easier, and less expensive, to make sure Commissioner Bettman doesn’t need to be in the press box that night.
Everything else seems to be in Tampa’s favor, to host another top-level sporting event. Just tell Gary Bettman that he would be much more comfortable in the Chase Club, than the press box.