After one season at the Fairgrounds—a converted exhibition hall so cramped the Zamboni has to park outside—the Lightning moves to the Suncoast Dome, now rechristened the ThunderDome.
For the first time Tampa Bay makes the playoffs; loses to the Flyers in six.
The Lightning moves into the Ice Palace.
Insurance magnate Art Williams agrees to buy the debt-ridden team for $117 million from majority owner Takashi Okubo, who had never attended a home game. He was so elusive he never met commissioner Gary Bettman until April '98.
After Taking Vincent Lecavalier with the No. 1 pick in the draft, Williams declares that the 18-year-old will be "the Michael Jordan of hockey." Brad Richards is drafted in the third round at No. 64.
With Tampa Bay 157-253-54 under his direction, Esposito is fired as general manager by Williams.
Williams sells the Lightning for a loss to William Davidson, owner of the NBA's Pistons. Davidson executives suggest he bought the team as a real estate deal.