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Tampa Bay Lightning unveil statue of team founder Phil Esposito outside arena

Phil Espostio is honored with a statue on the west plaza at the newly named Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 31, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Phil Espostio is honored with a statue on the west plaza at the newly named Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 31, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Lightning have unveiled a bronze statue of team founder Phil Esposito on the plaza outside their arena.

Esposito was instrumental in the Tampa area being award an NHL expansion team that started play in the 1992-93 season. The Hall of Famer is currently a Lightning radio analyst and the vice-president of corporate relations.

Esposito spoke at Saturday's ceremony and said to the fans: "Even when the franchise wasn't good, you never quit on us. I've got to say, the friends that I've made in Tampa Bay over these 21 years, honestly, you are the greatest."

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, former NHL President John Ziegler, Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito and 1980 U.S. Olympic goaltender Jim Craig also attended the ceremony.

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