Head coach Terry Crisp helped lay the foundation for Lightning’s success

Tampa – Before the Lightning team hung their Stanley Cup banners inside the Amalie Arena, before the team sold the ring each night, Terry Crisp was banging the hockey drum in Tampa Bay.

So it was so special that Crisp, Lightning’s first head coach, was recognized ahead of Saturday’s home game against the Nashville Predators, on the 30th anniversary of the day he was appointed to Tampa Bay.

Crisp, who is retiring after 23 seasons as a broadcaster with the Predators after a career as a player, coach and broadcaster spanning six decades, brought down the celebratory puck before the game.

Although Crisp has been with Nashville since the organization’s inception, he said helping build the Lightning brand in Tampa Bay in the early 1990s was a special experience for him.

“It’s just fun, great memories,” Crisp said. “When we go back to the things that happened and we really had to work through it, they weren’t all kind of joking at the time because you really make them want to make this franchise and move on and stay here.

“But when you look back, we had to go here to party, and do Hockey 101 on the beach if we had to — wherever it took to get them to come in those formative years.”

Terry Crisp, who collected the record 142-204-45 with Lightning from 1992-1997, views the franchise’s first playoff berth in the team’s fourth season as a breakthrough.

From the Florida State Fair during the Lightning opening season to Tropicana Field — then known as ThunderDome — Crisp stood behind the bench for parts of the franchise’s first six seasons.

“You can buy season tickets for $99 at ThunderDome, all the way to the top floor,” Crisp said. “But once the game started, the staff were told to let them all filter to the lower levels as the cameras moved.”

Crisp, who collected the record 142-204-45 with Lightning from 1992-1997, views the franchise’s first playoff berth in the team’s fourth season as a breakthrough.

Although the Lightning lost to the Flyers in six matches in the first round, they set a panic in Philadelphia. So much so, that Crisp remembers Flyers player-turned-CEO Bobby Clark telling him that Lightning would have won the series had goalkeeper Darren Bubba not been hurt.

“I said, thank you,” Crisp said. “He’s like, ‘No, I’m not kidding. “So that made me proud of these guys, because we were able to give them a run.”

Then-general manager Phil Esposito, right, hands new coach Terry Crisp the team's hat during an introductory press conference in 1992 in Tampa.
Then-general manager Phil Esposito, right, hands new coach Terry Crisp the team’s hat during an introductory press conference in 1992 in Tampa.
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In the Lightning locker room, photos of Crisp hang in the halls as a reminder of the team’s early years.

“There’s a long history that I always think should be embraced no matter what profession you’re in,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “You have to embrace the past, because it really paved the way for who you are now. And Crispy was a big part of that.

“…I think if you look at our organization, and yes, you will see the success we have had in the last decade or so, but the team had to stay here, the team had to succeed, the team had to get in the community and do all of these things when I started For the first time, it’s a big part of that.”

Now Crisp is watching the success of Lightning, winning three Stanley Cups – including the past two – knowing that he played a role in building the success of the franchise.

“We’ve worked very hard to maintain it to make sure this franchise stays here,” Crisp said. “All along the way, we enjoyed doing different things and events.

“At first, we couldn’t give away tickets, and we never really could figure it out. You have nice weather and golf courses. We were dependent on snowbirds, but they weren’t interested in going to an ice rink. So we had to bang the drums at car dealerships or Anyone we could pressure to do things with us and make it happen. We just kept clicking away.”

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