The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they will be honoring former captain Vincent Lecavalier on October 18th, when the Florida Panthers will be in town for an interstate matchup.
Lecavalier, 36, retired this offseason after finishing his career on a relative high note with the Los Angeles Kings; after being all but written off as an NHL player during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, Lecavalier established himself as a reliable bottom-six presence for the Kings by putting up 10 goals and 7 assists in 42 games to end his National Hockey League career. In total, the Quebec native suited up for 1,212 (!) regular season contests and notched 949 (!) career points.
Of course, it won't be his time with the Kings or Flyers that fans will remember. Rather, Lecavalier will go down in history as one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's all-time greats. After being drafted first overall by the team in 1998, Lecavalier went on to score 383 goals (a current franchise record) and 874 points in 1,037 games with Bolts. For so long, he was everything right about the sunbelt franchise.
Beyond the goals, assists, and games played, there was more. His contributions to the Lightning are perhaps best exemplified by his efforts to help clinch the 2004 Stanley Cup, which included him tallying 16 points in 23 games during the Spring run and helping out in other ways...
A few of you know that I became a Lightning fan during that run. Call me a bandwagon fan if you want, but the truth is that I just really disliked the Calgary Flames. You see, they beat the Canucks in the first round of the '04 playoffs, which made young Mike cry like a baby. I wanted nothing more than for someone, anyone to take down Jarome Iginla and the Flames. Lecavalier was that guy. To the 11-year-old kid who thought the world was ending when the Flames took out the Canucks, Lecavalier was a hero.
Lecavalier's successes with Tampa Bay didn't stop with that Stanley Cup win, either. A dominant force both on and off the ice, he took home the Rocket Richard Trophy, King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and NHL Foundation Award during his time with the Lightning. Not only did he shine under the lights of the Ice Palace/Forum, but he shined in the community as well. Again, he truly summed up everything right with the franchise.
Today, even after not having been with the team for a number of years, Lecavalier's presence can still be seen in the community. His $3-million commitment to fund The Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center continues to help children and families every day. He may have played in other cities and for other teams, but he never really left Tampa or the Lightning family.
In short, there is no player more deserving of a true honoring by the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the plans as of now do not appear to involve a jersey retirement, there is little doubt in this blogger's mind that the Number-4 should be hanging from the rafters of Amalie Arena. Jersey retirements should be saved for the most elite, most community-minded, and most impactful players a city has ever seen; Vincent Lecavalier was that player in Tampa.
As always, thanks for reading.