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Lightning alumni prepare for battle against Boston

The group will face off against former Bruins stars during Saturday's Hockey Day in Tampa Bay at AMALIE Arena

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Lightning Alumni Practice

Lightning Alumni hit the ice

Prior to Saturday's Hockey Day in Tampa Bay and Alumni Game, the Lightning Alumni hit the ice at Amalie Arena for some practice

  • 02:03 •

Toward the end of a nearly two-hour-long practice session on the AMALIE Arena ice, Vinny Prospal slipped a pass to Vincent Lecavalier on a two-on-one, and No. 4 buried the opportunity past a helpless goaltender and into the back of the net.

Just like old times for the two former Tampa Bay Lightning teammates who played six seasons together and had a habit of knowing where to find each other on the ice at all times.

"I played a lot of years with Vinny Prospal and just little plays that we're doing, I kind of remember from back in the day," Lecavalier said. "That's a lot of fun. But it's nice to be in the locker room and get the guys together. I think that's the best."

A number of Lightning alumni suited up Thursday wearing a mismatch of different playing jerseys from throughout their playing career to get ready for their game Saturday against an alumni team from the Boston Bruins, part of a full schedule of events taking place at AMALIE Arena for Hockey Day in Tampa Bay. The Lightning alumni, coached by Bolts founder Phil Esposito, will be headlined by Lecavalier, Prospal and Dave Andreychuk. The Bruins roster is highlighted by Ray Bourque, Al Iafrate and Terry O'Reilly.

Lecavalier retired from the NHL in June of 2016 and said he's only skated three times, including Thursday's session, since hanging up his skates. His son Gabriel still hasn't quite grasped his dad doesn't play anymore he said.

Saturday will provide Lecavalier's children - he has three - as well as his fans another opportunity to watch the playmaker work his magic.

"(Gabriel's) just wondering when my next game is. I keep telling him, 'it's over,'" Lecavalier joked. "But I told him we've got one more night here on Saturday."

Lecavalier moved back to the area following his retirement and has publically returned to AMALIE Arena a couple times already this season, first at Fan Fest as the team announced he would be honored during a game and later on October 18 as the Lightning officially welcomed back Lecavalier.

The Bolts former captain plans to become more involved in the team's alumni activities now that he's a permanent resident of the area again.

"It's obviously very nice to be in Florida," Lecavalier said. "It's not a bad place to live when you're done your career. I feel this is a great community and that's why people want to come back here. The weather's nice, but the community itself is very special. Everybody that played here, if they're not living here, they always said, "I wish I was there.' So it's a very special place."

Andreychuk said the thing players miss most in retirement is the camaraderie with their teammates. Saturday's game and the practices leading up to the event allow former Bolts to get together and reminisce about their playing career and what it meant to be a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Having all these guys back is great," said Andreychuk, who remains on staff with the Lightning as the organization's vice president of corporate and community affairs. 

"We have a few more guys that are flying into town. Robbie DiMaio's coming back. Tim Taylor's coming back. Freddy Modin's coming back, so it'll be fun to have all these guys around. And, you know, just to get out and keep playing with all of us, it's special."

Andreychuk wouldn't predict a winner for Saturday's game but did note the Lightning will enter with a decidedly younger team. The Bruins, however, own the edge in experience having played 30 to 40 games a year together.

"We all have competitive edges," Andreychuk said. "A lot of us took it to the golf course after we were done, which our friends don't like, so this is kind of nice that we're going to go out and play. You know, listen, it's all for charity. It's all in fun. But when it comes down to it, we want to win just as bad as anybody else."

Tickets to the entire day of events are $10 in advance and $15 at the door with proceeds benefitting the Ritchie Foundation and Lightning Sled Hockey.

The all-day Hockey Day in Tampa Bay celebration begins with the Chase Street Lightning tournament at 9 a.m. and events like the Sled Hockey Game with Lightning alumni (1 p.m. start), the Honda Lightning High School Hockey League All-Star Game (2:45 p.m.), the Lightning Made Skills 

Competition (4 p.m.) and the Lightning High School Hockey League Championship (7 p.m.) will keep fans entertained throughout the day.

"I think it's great," said Ruslan Fedotenko, who played for the Lightning from 2002-07 and netted the most important goal in the organization's history when he scored the game-winner in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. 

"The whole Lightning organization and Mr. Vinik are doing a great job here to organize everything and get support behind the hockey and with the youth and everything else. I think the more we can bring awareness to hockey and kind of support it, it will be great for our community and great for the fans and great for players. So everybody wins."

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