When magazines and blogs publish totally subjective lists like this one we're compiling, it's always a pretty transparent effort to get attention and generate discussion. We're not even going to attempt to deny that's what we're doing here or apologize for it.
Often these lists will present an intentionally egregious and unjustifiable case for the sake of generating an inorganic controversy. Remember that time People magazine named George Wendt "Sexiest Man Alive"? Remember that time Maxim magazine named him Sexiest Woman Alive? Dark days indeed for the Media-outlet-submitting-totally-subjective-lists-for-public-consideration business. That's where we draw the line.
As a result, there's only one possible choice to represent the number 4 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, former two-time captain Vincent Lecavalier. It doesn't matter that only one other player (defenseman Cory Cross) ever wore it for the Bolts, #4 belongs to Vinny.
It's highly unlikely that any Lightning fan doesn't know who Vinny is and what he meant to this team but just in case, here is a small handful of key points:
- Selected first overall in the 1998 entry draft
- Played for the Lightning from the 1998-99 season through the 20
- Trivia pertaining to this entry: Actually began his career in Tampa Bay wearing number 8, which he kept for a season until number 4 became available when Cory Cross was traded to Toronto for Fredrik Modin.
- Was named captain at the age of 19, youngest in the history of the NHL.
- NHL Second All-Star Team - 2007, NHL All-Star Game - 2003, 2007, 2008 (captain), 2009, Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy - 2007, King Clancy Memorial Trophy - 2008, NHL Foundation Player Award - 2008
- Still holds Lightning records for games played (1037), goals (383), and points in a season (108 in 2006-07),
- In addition, he tallied 491 assists, 60 game-winning goals and 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists) in the postseason for the Bolts.
- And of course, a key contributor to the 2004 Stanley Cup champion team.
The intangible, unquantifiable aspects of what Lecavalier gave the Lightning can't be overstated. To put it in the most simple terms possible, he gave the Lightning an identity. Prior to his arrival, Tampa Bay was considered something of a novelty act, a place for retreads and reclamation projects to mark time, serving as little more than over-matched sparring partners for the rest of the league.
With his selection in the draft and subsequent performances on the ice, the Lightning were finally taken seriously. For the first time, Lightning fans had a young player with elite level talent to get behind. While he didn't lift the team to the status of contender by himself, he at least legitimized the Lightning as a "real" NHL team and not the hockey equivalent of a college football homecoming opponent.
Trade rumors (mostly originating from overzealous-to-the-point-of-irresponsible members of the media in Montreal) were an annual occurrence but his ultimate departure from Tampa Bay came about as an unfortunate result of business necessitated by navigating the landscape of an NHL with a salary cap.
Off the ice after his departure, his legacy lives on in Tampa Bay with his charitable foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center located at All Children's Hospital, a project initialized by Lecavalier with his pledge of $3 million. Upon his first return to Tampa Bay, as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Lecavalier was recognized by the Lightning organization as a Community Hero, the first (and so far, only) player to be so honored..
Other players to wear #4: Cory Cross