On a steamy Wednesday night at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Lightning struck and an NHL franchise came to life.
It was Oct. 7, 1992.
The night was filled with pomp and circumstance as Tampa Bay Lightning team founder Phil Esposito introduced Florida to the National Hockey League, and vice-versa. Original-six franchise Chicago was the opponent that night for the newest kid at the rink.
By the end of that inaugural night, Tampa Bay had a 7-3 victory and a new star by the name of Chris Kontos, who electrified the crowd at Expo Hall with four goals.
Tonight, the Lightning embark on the 20th season in franchise history and a season-long celebration of the franchise's first two decades.
Kontos, still the only Tampa Bay player to score four goals in a single game, is in town to launch the celebration.
At each home game this season, the Lightning will highlight a key player and moment in franchise history.
The team's top 20 hockey personnel, decided by fan voting, include four members of the front-office staff – head coaches Terry Crisp and John Tortorella and general managers Jay Feaster and Phil Esposito – plus players Dave Andreychuk, Dan Boyle, Brian Bradley, Ruslan Fedotenko, Roman Hamrlik, Pavel Kubina, Fredrik Modin, Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis, Tim Taylor, Paul Yzerbaert, Nikolai Khabibulin, Daren Puppa, Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.
Other players – such as John Cullen and John Tucker – also will be part of the alumni celebration this season.
In addition, the Lightning will honor the top 20 moments in team history, also decided upon by fans:
Dec. 6, 1990 – The day Tampa Bay was awarded an expansion franchise
Sept. 9, 1992 – Goaltender Manon Rheaume becomes the first female athlete to play in one of the four major professional sports leagues
Oct. 7, 1992 – The inaugural game against Chicago
Oct. 9, 1993 – Tampa Bay sets the NHL single-game attendance record with 27,227 fans at the ThunderDome
April 18, 1996 – The Lightning win their first ever playoff game, a 2-1 overtime victory in Philadelphia.
Oct. 20, 1996 – The Lightning open up the Ice Palace with a 5-3 win against the New York Rangers
June 27, 1998 – Vinny Lecavalier is drafted first overall
Oct. 9, 1998 – John Cullen returns to the ice 18 months after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
July 31, 2000 – Tampa Bay signs free agent Marty St. Louis
Nov. 15, 2002/Nov. 23, 2002 – Dave Andreychuk scores his NHL record 250th power play goal and his 600th career goal, respectively
May 22, 2004 – The Lightning defeat Philadelphia 2-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final
June 5, 2004 – A double-overtime goal by Marty St. Louis forces a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final
June 7, 2004 – Tampa Bay defeats Calgary 2-1 to capture a Stanley Cup title
June 9, 2004/Oct. 5, 2005 – The championship parade and banner raising ceremonies, respectively
March 30, 2007 – Vinny Lecavalier becomes the first Lightning player to score 50 goals in a season
June 20, 2008 – Steven Stamkos is selected first overall in the draft
March 3, 2010/Feb. 4, 2011 – Jeff Vinik purchases the franchise and begins an overhaul of the team, including logo and jersey changes as well as building upgrades
May 25, 2010 – NHL legend Steve Yzerman is hired as general manager
April 27, 2010 – Tampa Bay defeats Pittsburgh 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal to cap off a rally from down 3-1 in the series
April 7, 2012 – Steven Stamkos becomes the 20th player in NHL history to score 60 goals in a season