Since the 2013-14 NHL schedule was released in late-July, Tampa Bay Lightning fans immediately circled one specific date on their calenders: November 27th. This marks the date that our-once beloved captain Vincent Lecavalier returns to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the first time ever as an opponent.
Lecavalier signed a five-year deal, worth $22.5 million with the devil aka the Philadelphia Flyers. Vinny spent his first 14 seasons donning the blue, black, and white jerseys of the Lightning when they drafted him with the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL Draft. He was the face of the franchise for just about every season he spent here. Lecavalier earned the honor of wearing the captain’s “C” on his chest in 2000 when he was just a 19-year old. At that time, Vinny was the youngest player to be named captain in NHL history (soon surpassed by Sidney Crosby and Gabriel Landeskog). No player has been more deserving of the captain chest-piece the Lecavalier.
Lightning fans everywhere were absolutely shocked that Vinny would even consider signing with Philadelphia. Even though this contract is decent for a player of his age, it still comes as a surprise that he signed it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Vinny could play another five years at this level. But as far as Philly is concerned, the Flyers-Lightning rivalry is one of the most heated in Bolts team history. Every time the Bolts play Philadelphia on home ice, there is a good mix of Flyers fans that attend the games as there are (and should be) Lightning fans. Bolts fans are relentless with the boos as soon as the Flyers are introduced as the visiting team. However, this is where the test of loyalty will present itself.
Obviously, Vinny is going to be introduced as a member of the Flyers, but what will the reaction from the crowd be? Mostly boos? Mostly cheers? A mix of both? This is a player that the franchise invested time and money into. He helped lead the Bolts to their first and only Stanley Cup victory and was a known face in the community. For most fans, Lecavalier was the first person they thought of when someone mentioned the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Now, Lecavalier is known to most as a traitor for signing with one of our most hated rivals. Had he signed with Boston, there would be less cheers than the small amount he’ll receive as a Flyer. Yet the question still remains, how will the crowd react to his return? No one will know until that day comes on the 27th of November. Mark you calendars and get ready to buy your tickets. This is a game you will not want to miss.