Tampa Bay Lightning expected to host 2018 NHL All-Star Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning are expected to host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, multiple sources with knowledge of the process tell Yahoo Sports.

The deal hasn’t been officially announced, but barring a late setback the event will return to Tampa for the first time in 19 years.

The team last hosted the All-Star Game in 1999, when Team North America – a collection of NHL all-stars, not our beloved young guns from the World Cup – defeated Team World at the Ice Palace.

There has been speculation that the lack of an NHL All-Star Game host announcement meant the NHL was hedging on its vow not to send players to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. But holding the All-Star Game was always part of the contingency plan in case a deal with the IOC couldn’t be struck.

On Tuesday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that initial plans to hold the All-Star Game on the West Coast were scuttled:

One of the reasons some people still hold out hope for Olympic participation is that no All-Star Game has been set for next season. However, it does sound like there are plans for one. At this past season’s All-Star Weekend, it was believed the next one would be held in a Western Conference city, but there are rumblings the league went southeast instead.

Tampa Bay, of course, is in the Southeast, at last check.

The Lightning have been chasing a big NHL event for some time. According to the Tampa Times, a few League representatives visited the area in Nov. 2016 “as part of a multi-city scouting tour for potential sites for the All-Star Game, draft and outdoor games.”

Owner Jeff Vinik has invested heavily in the Lightning, the arena and the downtown area as well — always an incentive for the NHL to give something back to a franchise.

The NHL declined comment on the story.

As Friedman noted, the hockey world was holding out hope that no announcement for the All-Star Game meant the NHL was dragging its heels, hoping to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The League announced before the postseason that its players would not go to South Korea and compete for their member nations. Both the IIHF and the Games’ organizers hope that the decision is reversed.

“I don’t think they made the final decision so far,” Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee president Lee Hee-beom said Monday at a news conference. “(There is) still room to discuss and negotiate.

“Very recently I met their delegation in Pyeongchang, not only the athletes’ side, but also the labor union side. Not only in Pyeongchang, but also in New York. Nothing is concluded until the final conclusion is made.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.