In a week that has already been filled with a whirlwind of emotions, another blew through the doors of the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday, former Bolts’ captain Vincent Lecavalier.
“It feels good,” Lecavalier said. “It’s nice to be back in the building and walk around. I’m excited for tomorrow’s game. It’s just nice to see people you’ve worked with and built relationships with over the years.”
Lecavalier, 33, was the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning and spent his entire career with the Bolts until he was bought out by the organization at the end of last season.
He admitted that it was hard to focus on Monday’s game against the Florida Panthers knowing he would be playing the Lightning just two days later.
“One of the first things I looked at when we got the schedule this year was when we’d come to Tampa Bay,” he said.
Reality did not set in right away for the former Stanley Cup-winner and the 2006-07 Maurice Richard Trophy recipient for the league’s top goal scorer. Staying in Montreal at the time of the buyout, Lecavalier said it did not really kick in until he had to go to his home in Florida and pack his bags.
“Looking at the arena here that’s when you realize ‘Okay, well I’m here, but I’m leaving tomorrow and I won’t be back,’” he said. “That’s really when it hit. It was probably the toughest day for sure.”
Lecavalier and his family then packed up their things and headed north when he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in July. The better part of his family has remained firmly entrenched in the Tampa Bay community and Lecavalier has been as much a part of the community here, as the community has been for him.
“Everybody knows how I feel about Tampa,” he said. “It’s a great community and a lot of good people here.”
In 2007 Lecavalier donated three million dollars to help build the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. It has since become one of the largest pediatric cancer centers in Florida. He also runs the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation.
During the game Wednesday Lecavalier will be honored at the Lightning’s Community Hero and will also have a video tribute on the scoreboard.
OTHER ODDS ‘N ENDS
Netminder Ben Bishop is now 4-0-0 with a 0.89 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage in his career versus the Rangers.
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