Those competing in the Lightning Cup championship game on Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum received more than just the thrill of skating for a title on the same sheet of ice as several NHL superstars.
One, in particular, was actually in attendance.
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier joined in the festivities on Wednesday night, as he announced his foundation’s entrance into a partnership with the Florida High School Hockey Association.
Following the announcement, Lecavalier then headed down to center ice where he performed the ceremonial puck drop preceding the championship game between East Lake and Mitchell High School.
“We wanted to expand our foundation, who we helped, and who we are associated with,” Lecavalier said. “I felt as if high school hockey was obviously a good fit and it is something that I wanted to be partners in.”
The idea was not only to expand Lecavalier’s reach throughout the community and into high school hockey, but also to grow the game throughout the state of Florida and beyond.
As it is, the Lightning Conference already comprises 18 teams from various Bay Area high schools across several counties, however, the potential for even further growth is still attainable.
“With high school hockey and Mr. Lecavalier’s efforts, we are hopeful that something like this can bring awareness to student athletes all over the game,” said Dan Bubley, president of the Florida High School Hockey Association. “It also allows these student athletes to become aware of their obligations to the community. It really is a perfect partnership and I know that we can both benefit from one another.”
Through the new partnership, the Foundation plans to launch a new Vincent Lecavalier Star of the Week program designed to recognize Tampa Bay area high school hockey players for their work on and off the ice.
While program and recognition criteria are in development, it is anticipated the program will recognize hockey’s student athletes for their accomplishments in academics, athletics and community involvement.
The “Star of the Week” program will then culminate in an “end of year” luncheon and awards ceremony following a practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in the Spring of 2014.
In addition to the Star of the Week program, the Foundation will provide jerseys for players participating in the 2014 Lightning Conference All Star Game.
Wednesday night’s event also featured a charitable aspect too.
With approximately 26 high school hockey players and a number of others on hand at the Times Forum, not including those competing in the championship game, Lecavalier merged his passion for cancer research and the human resources he had on hand.
Each player volunteered to shave their heads as a prelude to the Bolts captain’s annual Cut For A Cure fundraiser, in which participants willingly lose their hair to show support for pediatric cancer funding, research and awareness.
“It was great to see the big turnout tonight,” Lecavalier added. “There was a lot to celebrate, even more to participate in for the future, and I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”