Gary Bettman announces Tampa Bay as host for 2018 All-Star Game

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Weekend, the surest sign yet that the NHL will actually bypass the Olympics.

The Lightning had been rumored to host the event, which will take place on Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, January 28 at Amalie Arena, but the Olympics remained the elephant in the room. The league has said since early April that it won't be sending players to Pyeongchang and would be making its 2017-18 schedule as normal, but some held out hope.

The previous time the NHL held an All-Star Weekend and sent players to the Olympics was 1998, the first of five trips to the Games.

The league announced the 2018 NHL All-Star Game will replicate the 3-on-3 tournament format that has been in use since 2016 with star players from each NHL division making up the four All-Star teams: Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan.

"We are looking forward to bringing the 2018 NHL All-Star celebration to the Tampa Bay area," Bettman said. "In addition to the events on the ice, we're planning outside activities which will embrace the Tampa Bay community and Gasparilla events -- as well as the Florida sunshine."

The 2018 All-Star Game will mark the second time Tampa will host the event. The Lightning and Tampa previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1999. For Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who purchased the team in 2010, this will be his first time as the All-Star Weekend host after spending nearly $90 million on improvements for Amalie Arena.

"We've worked hard over the past several years to transform Tampa Bay into a hockey market. The honor of hosting the All-Star Game validates that work, but it's not the end of our efforts. We pledge to work alongside the NHL as well as leaders across Tampa Bay to deliver a world-class experience for All-Star players, fans and partners," Vinik said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.