Lightning fires Espositos

Archived from 1998-99 season.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning fired hall of famers Phil and Tony Esposito in a front office shakeup by owner Art Williams.

Phil Esposito was the only general manager the Lightning ever had. He will be replaced by head coach Jacques Demers, who had shared player decisions with Esposito. An assistant GM will be hired to replace Tony.

"In our situation right now, I just feel like the head coach having the ability to handle both of those jobs gives us what we need," Williams said. "That might not be what we do long range, but right now it's absolutely the best way to go."

Esposito was the man who brought hockey to Florida. He lobbied hard for the expansion and made hockey familiar in an area with little previous exposure to it.

"It's the nature of the business," Esposito said. "I'm not mad. The only thing I regret is not being able to continue bringing the franchise around."

Art Williams bought the team from Japanese-owned Kokusai Green for $117 million in June and has since increased payroll and made a commitment for turning the struggling franchise around.

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