The Tampa Bay Lightning took a few minutes before their match-up against the Florida Panthers last night to honour their former captain and Stanley Cup Champion, Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier spent 14 years in Tampa Bay, where he crafted his talents to become an NHL star.
Drafted first overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Lecavalier was set to become the franchises next big thing. However his rookie year was one to forget, registering just 28 points in 82 games.
His former junior teammate Brad Richards was sent back to the QMJHL where he dominated that year. Whereas Lecavalier was left to grow and improve as an NHL player, which appeared to be for the best.
After being named Captain in 2000-2001, Lecavalier continued to struggle on and off the ice and was stripped of the ‘C’ after tallying just 37 points in 76 games. This was reflected in his teams performance also, as they missed the playoffs again.
A year later, the improvements were being noticed. The 2002-2003 season saw career highs in next to every statistical category (33 goals, 45 assists for 78 points). Lecavaliers improvement was portrayed by the Lightning also, as they reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in their history.
2003-2004, the big year. Lecavalier and the Bolts made a big leap. Both improved again, as ‘Vinny’ notched 66 points in 80 regular season games, before his team went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals where they defeated the Calgary Flames in 7 games.
Lecavalier was noted for his game 3 fight against Jerome Iginla, a rare scene as two superstars dropped the gloves in a Stanley cup final. But it showed a lot of people that Lecavalier was more than just goals and assists, he had grit and was willing to do whatever to help his team win.
Of course the 2003 Stanley Cup will be what most people remember Vincent Lecavalier for. But he was a constant portrayal of class throughout his entire career with the Lightning. On and off the ice he contributed in many ways.
Now Lecavalier has retired, and after a few seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, he has moved back to the Tampa Bay area. Just like other Lightning greats and former teammates (Dave Andreychuk) it appears that Number 4 will still be around the game of hockey, by staying close to his second home.
The Lightnig honoured their former captain with a 4-3 shootout win in Tampa, FL.