Transcript: Lecavalier says Tampa is “a legit hockey town”

Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vincent Lecavelier talks about his jersey retirement, his relationship with Martin St. Louis, and why he loves the city of Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be retiring the number 4 in honor of Vincent Lecavalier. The jersey retirement ceremony will take place on February 10, 2018 - the night the Lightning face the Los Angeles Kings.

The following is a transcript of Lecavalier’s portion of the press conference for accessibility.

For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phases, “and,” “um,” “so,” “I mean,” and “you know.” Transcript begins at 6:40.

Lecavalier: Well... [Lecavalier and reporters laugh]

No, it’s a great honor to be here. [smiles] From watching, being here for Marty’s [Martin St. Louis] retirement last year. It brought tears to my eyes watching his jersey go up [into the rafters]. To get that phone call from [team owner] Mr. Jeff Vinik, to have a chance to be in the same situation - right beside Marty. It’s such a great honor.

Obviously I want to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning, the fans who supported me my whole career. I got here in ‘98. Hockey was - I don’t want to say it was big - it was starting. I feel this team, this franchise has gone up every single year. Now it’s just one of the best, or the best franchise in North America.

To be here and to get your jersey retired, it’s such a great honor for myself, but for my family. I’m sure my parents will be here. They’re going to be proud of their son. [smiles] To have your kids with you, it’s going to be a great night. I feel very fortunate to be in this situation

Question: You see Vinny and Marty side by side up there in the rafters, when you look at them when it goes up?

Lecavalier: It’s amazing. I grew up in Montreal. I used to go to hockey games. I was six, seven, eight years old and that’s the first thing I’d do. I’d sit down with my dad, watch the warm-up. Then kind of go through the players [gestures towards ceiling] and their numbers up there.

To me, it’s a really great honor to be beside Marty, who I played twelve years with. Marty made such a big impact on my career and he’s done that to a lot of players. To be beside him, it’s going to be great.

Question: When you’ve seen other players numbers up in the rafters at other arenas, or other jersey numbers retired - when you think of retired jerseys, what does it tell you about other players?

Lecavalier: Well, I’ll talk about Marty. [laughs] I guess it’s what a player does for the organization. I don’t like to talk about myself with that. A guy like Marty who has given his heart, given everything to this team and to the community.

I grew up in Montreal, but I’ve been here more than half my life. To have that jersey lifted up here with friends I grew up with, teammates. Friends that, in the last years that I had here in Tampa, it’s going to be such a special night.

To have that jersey retired, to be there all the time - I know there’s going to be some kids, they’re going to the games, it’s going to be the same thing with their parents, watch the jerseys. For that, I think it’s such an honor to have that.

Question: When you have this happen, I know you don’t like to talk about yourself a whole lot, but does it help you realize the impact you had on this organization and this town?

Lecavalier: Yeah, I mean [laughs] yes. I feel you don’t really want to be just about the hockey player. I feel - not just myself, a lot of hockey guys. Take Stammer [Steven Stamkos], such an All-Star, but he does so much for the community. I feel that I’ve done a lot, Marty’s done a lot - a lot of guys that have been here a long time really give back to this community because we love it here.

We feel like Mr. Vinik said, it’s a big small town. We really feel a part of it. You don’t feel lost in it. Very humble people. It’s a great place to be. That’s what makes it extra special, for sure.

Question: With your name and number actually hanging in the rafters, you’re literally part of the building. Does that make you feel more bonded to the organization, maybe more so than as a player?

Lecavalier: I don’t know. Well, it does because I’ve been here a long time [chuckles].  Every time I’ll come in that building. For me as well, like I said before, my kids coming in here.

For me, it’s just not myself looking up, it’s for my kids to say, “Wow. This is number four. This is my dad’s number.” They can be proud of that. For me, that’s even more important.

Question: When you talk about your favorite memory, I’m assuming it’s got to be winning the Stanley Cup?

Lecavalier: Yeah, I mean everybody asks me that. [smiles] It’s always the same answer, of course it’s the Stanley Cup. I reflect more now, being out of the game. I think when you’re in it, you’re kind of in your bubble. You’re not thinking about retirement, you’re not thinking about the past. You’re thinking about your next game and your next year. When you’re retired, it’s kind of the opposite. [chuckles] You’re thinking fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years back.

For me, a big impact were the players my first year. They made a huge impact on me. Guys like Wendel Clark, Enrico Ciccone. I can name a lot of guys that first year when you come in here. You’re eighteen years old, they take care of you. Jacques Demers, the coach.

For me, being here such a long time, of course the Stanley Cup and that route to the Stanley Cup - meaning from, you could call it like the “Torts Era” I guess [laughs]. When Torts [John Tortorella] came here, we started really - you got Dave [Andreychuk], Tales [Tim Taylor], Richie [Brad Richards] getting into his prime as well. That whole team getting better every year. Of course that was very special.

But if I think about something else, I think about that first year where the community and the players really helped me feel comfortable here.

Question: Do you think that maybe - in so many ways, this community watched you grow up as a hockey player. The ups, the downs, struggles, confrontations, expectations...

Lecavalier: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot that happened. [laughs] A lot of ups and downs - more ups, obviously. We had a few tough years. After my second year, getting some phone calls from people saying, “You’ll never win here. How do you play there? It’s hot.” The typical. [rolls eyes, laughs]

But obviously we proved them wrong. I think that’s what makes it even more special too. There was a lot of trade rumors, for a lot of years. So yeah, a lot of ups and downs, but it was fun.

Question: Do you think that in some ways this town helped? Like if some of what you went through had gone on in let’s say a much larger market like a Toronto or like a Montreal, there’s a chance it could have been a lot. In some ways, is this the perfect community to grown into yourself, as a player?

Lecavalier: It really was. I think hockey - I think this is now like a legit hockey town, it really is. In ‘98 [the year Lecavalier was drafted], it probably wasn’t. It wasn’t a Montreal or Toronto, obviously. But I think now it’s grown into that. It’s a smaller big town, if I can say that again.

Yeah, I think the pressure wasn’t the same as an Auston Matthews playing in Toronto. So maybe that did help me to feel more comfortable. But sometimes you like to feel that pressure. Maybe after winning the Cup, the pressure - okay now it’s on because you’re the winners. Now you’ve got to back it up [smiles], so the pressure started for everybody and I think we handled it pretty well.

The start at eighteen [years old], I think it was a really good match. It was a lot of fun.

Question: When you were first drafted, another owner here said you were going to be the Michael Jordan of hockey. Did you even know what he was talking about?

Lecavalier: [sigh] Yeah, it was kind of... I guess that’s a little bit of pressure. [laughs] Well I think he - well, he never watched a hockey game before. I don’t think he watched me play, so I don’t know how serious he was about it. I was asked that question a lot, but it kind of went ten feet over my head because I obviously don’t want to think about that.  It’s not realistic.

For me, it was just try to do my best at eighteen. Back then, I remember Joe Thornton his first year was the year right before me. He didn’t play much. It was tough to make your place on a team. For me, it was just to do my best and make the team and start to improve.

Question: Your friend Brad Richards said this morning that one of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do is stand up there and give that speech. You’re so shy, you’re so humble, and you’re following Marty. Is it going to be tough to you, when you think about it?

Lecavalier: Not really that way. What’s tough is that I’ve got so many people to thank. [smiles] Well it’s not tough, it’s something I really want to do. I’ve got to look back. Like I said, when you retire, you kind of look back on your career and you’re like, “Oh yeah, this guy.” You know what I mean? This guy helped me do this or this guy.

There’s so many people to thank, so many people that helped me along the way. Those are the people you want to thank. You go even further back - my parents and everybody that made sacrifices. Those are the people you want to thank that night because they’ve done so much for you. They’re one of the reasons if not the reason that I’m in that situation right now that I’m here.