A group of 10 Lightning alumni, featuring Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, returned to Amalie Arena to participate in a skills competition as part of Sunday's Hockey Day in Tampa Bay festivities.
The pair shared the same two takeaways after finishing up.
One, being back on the ice was a hard reality check on the state of their games in retirement.
And two, events like Hockey Day in Tampa Bay are key to growing hockey not just in Tampa, but across the entire state.
"I think Hockey Day is a celebration of what has transpired over the years," St. Louis said. "There's so many more hockey players now and I think the Lightning's success, the visibility and how much the Lightning gets involved in the community is a direct correlation why so many more kids are playing hockey."
On the ice, the alumni participated in a shootout challenge, fastest skater competition, shot accuracy challenge and a hardest shot competition.
Team Vinny emerged with a 4-3 victory, with a lot of the credit belonging to Dmitri Afanasenkov. He scored on a spinning forehand move in the shootout challenge and won the fastest skater and shot accuracy competitions.
"I was most impressed with Affy," St. Louis said afterwards, "but he's a skills coach, so he should still have good skills."
The event was laid back with Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuck emceeing the event and chirping the players before and after they took their turns. Keeping with the overall spirit of the day, some of the guys also had their kids on the ice and let them take part in the competitions.
"Every time I have a chance to come here, I like to bring [my son Gabe]," Lecavalier said. "A little tour of the locker room, being out there with the fans and everybody watching, it was pretty exciting."
The skills competition was just one part of a larger celebration of hockey in the Tampa Bay area.
Sunday's programming featured events like a 50-team ball hockey tournament, a Learn to Play event, the Honda High School Hockey All-Star Showcase and the finals of the Lightning High School Hockey League, won by the Seminole Sharks.
In addition to participating in the skills competition, St. Louis was also in Tampa to coach his son's travel team in a game on the ice at Amalie Arena.
"My kids grew up here…" St. Louis said. "So whenever I come back here, it's special for me and to be able to share this building and the experience with my kids and my team is fun."
Experiences like this for kids are crucial to the Lightning's goal of growing hockey's popularity in the area.
"I see it firsthand because I'm coaching a team," Lecavalier said. "Obviously the Lightning are doing an unbelievable job of creating this environment here in Florida… and I think that's why hockey's growing at this pace."