Quick note: Like many NHL players, Vinny has the tendency to say “you know,” “I mean,” and “uh” quite often. For the sake of clarity and fluency, I’ve omitted those phrases.
Question (Q): Now that the night’s here, what are the emotions?
Vincent Lecavalier (VL4): It’s obviously a great honor to be back here. And just be back in this building - and not as an opponent [chuckle]. So it feels great. It’s nice to be back. I’ve been here since the beginning of August, and just to see everybody in town - the community, everything - it’s been a lot of fun.
Q: Vinny, looking back, if you had it to do over again, would you ever leave?
VL4: Well, obviously with the circumstances, the business side of it took over a little bit for the Lightning, obviously. So it’s part of the game. It happens. Obviously, I’ve always wanted to play my whole career here, but I’m back here and I’m happy to be here.
Q: What was your thought when they said that they wanted to bring you back and have this ceremony for you?
VL4: Like I said, it’s a great honor. For when Bill [Wickett, VP of Communications] - and then when I talked to [Lightning owner] Mr. Vinik as well - it’s just nice to be back here in the building. And to be with this great organization, what they’ve built since Mr. Vinik’s been here. It’s pretty nice to see. I never really watched a lot of games when I was playing, but I watched the first two [Lightning games of this season]. I thought I’d watch only one period. I’m like, “I’ll just watch the first period and see how it goes,” and I ended up watch the two first games. And just to see this team - how great they are, how deep they are. It’s nice to be in Tampa and be able to watch this team and to root for ‘em, for sure.
Q: Yourself, Brad [Richards], Dan [Boyle] all retired this year. Marty [St. Louis] retired last year. You guys were such a pillar of those teams. To see all four of you kind of go out at the same time...
VL4 [smiling]: Yeah, it’s kind of weird. Obviously to see Marty retired last year was a pretty big surprise. But yeah, we... [chuckles] When you’re 22, 23, or 24 years old winning the Stanley Cup, you think you can play forever. There always comes a time where it’s - the end comes. But to see everybody, pretty much at the same time, was kind of weird to see. But at the same time, I think everybody was ready for it.
Q: Do you ever look back at your career here and think, “Man, what a crazy ride.”
VL4: Definitely, from when I first got here, winning 20 games a year for the first two or three years. It was tough to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But then we got some good leadership and some guys to kind of - like Dave [Andreychuk] and Andy - very, very deep team and we start believing. We won that first [2003 playoff] series against Washington. It just seems after that, the year after, we believed in what we could do. That’s where we started building something.
Q: You came in with [former Lightning owner] Art [Williams] and you left with [former Lightning owner Oren] Koules.
VL4: Yeah, there was [chuckles] a lot of different coaches, a lot of ownership, obviously. But overall, it was a lot of fun. That’s all that matters really. Some ups, some downs. I think like anybody who has a career, they’ll kind of look back and see, “Okay well, this year or that year could have gone better or whatever,” but no regrets. I think it was fun. I’ve always enjoyed it. Always loved my time here in Tampa - tougher in Philly - but to finish off in L.A. with a great team, that made things a lot sweeter to say, “Well, it’s okay, it’s time to retire.”
Q: Vinny, what’s next for you?
VL4: 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.
Q: It’s your son’s birthday?
VL4: Yeah, it is!
Q: Have you told him that daddy isn’t going to get honored every night? [laughs]
VL4 [laughs]: 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.
Q: You said retirement kind of hit in for you when the Lighting Alumni letters or messages - I know you have some family time to take care of - but how much you might be involved in - they’ve tried to recruit you, I’m sure, to be involved in some of these activities in the next few years or so.
VL4: 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.
Q: Vinny, how happy were you to see that Stammer and Hedman - two guys that were drafted while you were here and kind of learned - are you happy that they committed to play long term here?
VL4: Well, definitely. Especially with this organization here and the team they have. I think it’s a no-brainer for anybody that can play on this team to be part of this. It’s going to be pretty special. Like I said, I watched the first two games, and it’s nice to watch, honestly. I’d watch other games, I just turn off the TV. But you watch the Lightning, it’s like you want more. You want four periods.
Q: Vinny, you grew up here. You got married here. You scored 50 [goals in one season] here. What did being a member of the Lightning mean to you, bottom line?
VL4: Well, it’s where I grew up. It’s where - you kind of come in as an 18 year old and you’re kind of clueless about the game. You’re the new guy, the young guy, and you go through all these experiences and different challenges, but then you win a [Stanley] Cup in 2004 with all your best friends and with a great team. It’s just a great ride to be able to play here, wear the jersey, and to go through everything we’ve been through - it’s just been a great ride.