Vinny Lecavalier played all but 106 of his 1,212 regular season games in the NHL with the Lightning. As such, the native of Île Bizard, QC, who was selected first overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning, will always consider the Tampa Bay area "home".
"It's obviously a great honor to be back here. And just be back in this building - and not as an opponent. So it feels great. It's nice to be back."
Vinny attended the game with his family and two of his children joined him on the red carpet for a pre-game ceremonial puck drop. His son Gabriel happened to be celebrating his birthday.
"Yeah, I don't think they understand. My oldest kind of gets it. My five year old - obviously my three year old doesn't - but my five year old is kind of a little mixed up. But they're enjoying it. They going to come and I'm going to bring them out to drop the puck. That's going to be a good experience for ‘em, for sure."
There was a highlight video and fans were given blue rally towels emblazoned with the not-officially-retired-but-highly-unlikely-to-ever-be-worn-by-another-Lightning-player number 4. He was also interviewed by arena in-game host Greg Wolf during a first period timeout.
Now that he's free to enjoy some leisure time with his family in their home on Davis Island, what lies ahead?
"I don't know. I kind of want to take a year to just hang out with the family. I've got three young kids - [ages] six, five, and three. So I want to enjoy them and be with them and be with the family. I want to say, "Get away from hockey," but at the same time, I know I'm going to come and watch a lot of games. But yeah, just kind of hang out with the family and bring the kids here to the game and we'll see next year what happens."
And as far as involvement with the Lightning organization going forward...
[Read the full transcript of his press conference here.]
"Well, if they ask - they’ve already asked for some activities. I’m definitely happy to be in this community and if there are events and stuff like that, then I’ll definitely come and have a good time doing ‘em. So yeah, I’ll be here. It’s not like I’m going to go hide. I’m still going to be - like I said - I’m going to come to a lot of games and I’ll do activities and events, if there are some events, but I want to spend time with the family. That’s the priority for sure."