The Tampa Bay Lightning is a franchise that has been around since 1992. Their original owners were publically Tony and Phil Esposito. The Esposito's however did not have the money to bankroll buying the team. They then partnered with Japanese businessman Takashi Okubo who owned and operated Kokusai Green a golf course and resort company.
Okubo In The Mafia?
While appearing like your average wealthy business owner Takashi Okubo had rumors of more shady business dealings as well. His business Kokusai Green was allegedly a front for the Japanese mafia group called the Yakuza. While none of this is confirmed Okubo was friends with the Japanese Royal Family and a number of powerful people in Japan.
Lightning Turn Into Money Laundering Company
Allegedly the Tampa Bay Lightning in their early years were used to launder money according to a writer from Sports Illustrated:
Okubo, Takashi: The former owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Okubo was described by a source in one lawsuit as being a "gangster" and a member of a Japanese mob organization known as "yakuza," a group that has been known to launder money through sports enterprises. Under Okubo's leadership, the Lightning were one of the worst franchises in sports and nearly went bankrupt until Bill Davidson's remarkable rescue.
While all of these stories and rumors are just that it is interesting to wonder if the Tampa Bay Lightning were owned by a Japanese mobster. If so did anyone in the organization or NHL as a whole know about his mobster life? We will likely never have clear answers to any of these questions but the idea that this is even a possibility is wild.