Apr 9, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) reacts after he scored a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Legacy of Vincent Lecavalier

Vincent Lecavalier gave us all a lot more to think about than hockey.

Yes, he was our Captain and our leader. When he was 18 years old Art Williams unfairly burdened him with the “Michael Jordan of hockey” label. Vinny survived. Before the 2001-2002 season he was stripped of his captaincy because, according to Lightning management, he was “too young.” Again, Vinny survived. And given the personality of John Tortorella, there were many reports that he and Vinny often clashed. Through it all, Vinny survived.

Not only did he overcome those and other challenges in his career, he excelled as a hockey player, a leader, and a citizen in our community.

Selected for the NHL All-Star Game four times, he was the Captain in 2009. He was the World Cup of Hockey MVP in 2004, a Stanley Cup champion, winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2007 and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2008. No one can ever doubt the hockey prowess of Vincent Lecavalier.

And although I’ll remember our Captain for his athletic accomplishments, it’s his commitment to the Tampa Bay community that will always cause me to hold him in the highest regard.

In 2008 Vinny was the recipient of the NHL Foundation Player Award. That honor is presented to one player each year “who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

Fans will remember his $3 million donation to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg to develop the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric and Blood Disorders Center. But Vinny did so much more than that.

Our Captain set the bar for what it means not only to be a professional athlete that we can cheer for but, more importantly, a husband, a father, a teammate, and a friend that we can respect and admire.

And so, Vinny, while you’ll be scoring goals in another city next season and beyond, Hockey Bay will always be your home. Thank you for your example and your inspiration. All the best to you and your family.

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