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Tampa Bay Lightning sold to fund manager Vinik

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - The Tampa Bay Lightning were sold to Boston fund manager Jeff Vinik on Friday for a reported $170 million.

"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," said Vinik, a minority owner of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox, on the team's website (lightning.nhl.com).

"I've been an avid hockey fan my whole life and I pledge to our fans that I will work my hardest to build the Lightning into a world class organization both on and off the ice.

"I have a passion for the game and will do my best to restore a winning culture at the St. Pete Times Forum that all of our fans and partners can be proud of."

The deal brings stability to Tampa Bay, where previous owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie had fallen out over money issues since buying the team for $207 million in 2008, according to media reports.

The sale remains to be approved by the NHL's board of governors.

"The day is a bittersweet one for us, as I believe we have established a strong foundation on the ice and begun to point things in a positive direction for the Lightning," said Koules.

"I believe we are leaving (Vinik) with some great pieces in place and hopefully he can build upon them to deliver a consistent winner in the future."

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004 but have spent much of the time since near or at the bottom of the NHL standings.

But with the help of top draft picks Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, the Lightning are now in playoff contention, second in the Southeast division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Vancouver; editing by Ian Ransom)