Julien Brisebois raises the Stanley Cup. ( Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Perseverance: Tampa Bay Lightning Vice President and General Manager “knew there was potential here.”

TAMPA, Fla. — 

Far from finished, the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning look forward to the 2021 season; as vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois reflects on the past and anticipates the near future.

BriseBois knew the Bolts were knocking at the door prior to winning the Stanley Cup. 

“I thought there would be a strong sense of relief, but it wasn’t relief it was joy,” he said.

The former lawyer has come a long way since practicing sports law. BriseBois has worked his way up — having numerous positions within the NHL.

“I’ve been working for the NHL for 20 years now, so I think it’s the experience from all of the time working in hockey management. My legal background helps me with regards to due diligence in how we approach things.” 

The Move to Tampa

According to BriseBois, his Master of Business Administration has more practical use to him daily compared to his law degree. The former vice president of hockey operations for the Montreal Canadiens had no concerns on transitioning to a “non-traditional” hockey market. 

“In Tampa, there are no other major [hockey] franchises in town, it’s the only game in town.” 

In 2010, BriseBois was hired by former Lightning general manager, Steve Yzerman to serve as assistant general manager and general manager of their AHL affiliate. “I felt like Tampa Bay had the potential to be the best market to run a successful hockey franchise in the NHL,” said BriseBois. 

Taking Over as GM

Regarding his transition to general manager in 2018, BriseBois said he wanted to make things as easy as possible. 

“I went in and I wanted to make it as seamless as possible for everyone involved — we had an incredible general manager for eight years in Steve Yzerman.  “I wanted everyone to understand that the standards weren’t going to be lowered, we were still chasing the Stanley Cup and that’s what we are going to be doing year in and year out. We are going to set ourselves up to be a more competitive hockey team and a Stanley Cup contender.” 

That’s exactly what BriseBois and company proceeded to do. Led by captain Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. In BriseBois’ opinion, Stamkos’ goal in Game 3 of the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup Finals was the most iconic goal in franchise history. 

“I know how hard he worked to get back, all the struggles he had gone through and how much it meant to him,” he said.

The captain scored on his first shot in his first game back while dealing with a lower-body injury. “I thought it was a really good omen for our chances of winning the Stanley Cup. It just looked like at that point it was all coming together…destiny for us to win the Cup,” Brisebois said.

During this brief offseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning made several transactions. Re-signing key players such as Pat Maroon, Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak while also anticipating the absence of star right wing Nikita Kucherov due to a hip procedure. 

“On paper, it looks like we are going to be a very competitive team again going into the 2021 season,” said BriseBois.

2021 Season Start

The NHL and NHLPA announced the start of the shortened, fifty-six game 2021 NHL season will be January 13. Additionally, the NHL had a division realignment.  Referencing the 2021 season, BriseBois says the main focus is on what the Tampa Bay Lightning players need. While practice time may be limited, the usual wear and tear on players should be manageable due to the familiarity of playing the same teams. 

BriseBois claims that Tampa Bay has something very special established, as all eyes are on the Bolts, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions this season. 

“We are ready to start winning hockey games.”

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