The National Hockey League expanded by two teams yesterday, resurrecting part of its past by bringing in Ottawa and reaching out to new territory by welcoming Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators will begin play in 1992-93, even though neither has, at the moment, what it considers a permanent building in which to play. With the San Jose Sharks joining the league next season, the NHL will have 24 teams for 1992-93.

The league's Board of Governors completed the voting yesterday at its meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. On Wednesday, the board heard presentations by and asked questions of the seven groups that remained from the original 11 that applied for franchises. Today, the board will try to decide how to realign the divisions to account for the new entries.

"That appears to be a tougher issue than expansion itself," said Washington Capitals General Manager David Poile, who joined owner Abe Pollin and team president Dick Patrick at the meetings.

St. Petersburg, Miami, San Diego, Anaheim, Calif., and Hamilton, Ontario, were the other cities that made presentations. Some of the groups seeking teams for those cities were deeply disappointed, but others openly admitted beforehand they were not ready to join the NHL.

Tampa Bay and Ottawa were not necessarily favorites, but each had several things going for it, not the least of which was the $50 million entrance fee.

Ottawa is Canada's capital and the Senators were a member of the league from 1917 to 1933, winning four Stanley Cups. There was some desire -- mostly among Canadians and their government -- to maintain the current two-to-one ratio of U.S. teams to Canadian teams.

The Ottawa team, which already has sold 12,000 season tickets, will have to play in the 10,000-seat downtown civic center until a new arena is built. One drawback to Ottawa is its size (about 900,000 in the metropolitan area), but no group worked any harder to gain a franchise. Its leader, real estate developer Bruce Firestone, broke into tears at the news.

"I haven't done that since I was a little boy. I was stunned, just overwhelmed," Firestone said, according to the Associated Press. "It's a very special day. We've worked very hard for over two years to bring the National Hockey League back to Ottawa."

There hasn't been NHL hockey on a regular basis in Ottawa in 50 years, but it has never existed in Florida. The governors want to expand the league's borders in the hopes of one day regaining a U.S. network television contract. Tampa already has an NFL franchise and its NHL bidders had a high-profile front man in NHL Hall of Famer Phil Esposito.

"To be a part-owner of this thing is the ultimate," Esposito said, according to AP. "I've done everything in this game now."

Well, not quite. Esposito did pull off a minor miracle when it came to the financing. Less than three months ago, the Pritzker Family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain, pulled out as a financial backer of the bid. But Esposito and other organizers were able to bring in four Japanese companies as investors and secured a $60 million loan from Japan's Fuji Bank.

Now, all that's left is to build an arena in less than two years and sell tickets to fill it.

"From what I heard and read beforehand, a lot of people thought St. Petersburg was a shoo-in," Poile said. "But that was not the case. It was not as good a bid as Tampa."

The NHL would like to have 28 teams by the year 2000. It is especially interested in either of the two Southern California bids, as well as Houston and Miami.

"We said: 'Don't forget, we will still have four {teams} to go by the year 2000,' " NHL president John Ziegler said.

Geography theoretically would determine how the new teams are aligned, but the NHL sometimes makes unexpected decisions in following a line of reason. "It's a very difficult and emotional subject," Poile said. The governors could decide today where to put all three teams or just place San Jose and defer a decision on the others.

If the current divisional format is retained, logic would dictate San Jose go into the Smythe Division and Ottawa into the Adams. Then Tampa Bay either would go into the Norris or the Patrick, with Pittsburgh moving to the Norris, as was discussed several years ago. But nothing is a safe bet. An all-Canadian division is even a possibility, which would mean a major realignment.