Lecavalier dominated in his first season of junior hockey, playing for Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Vinny was second on the team in goals (42) and assists (60), helping Rimouski earn a berth in the QMJHL playoffs. He won the RDS Cup given to the league's Rookie of the Year, the Michel Bergeron Trophy honoring the Offensive Rookie of the year and was named to the Rookie Team as the starting center.
With the addition of future Lightning teammate Brad Richards to the roster in 1997-98, Rimouski and Lecavalier improved. Vinny led the team with 44 goals, was second on the team to Richards in assists with 71 and was fifth in the league in points with 115. Vinny dominated the postseason, recording 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 18 playoff games. Rimouski eventually fell to the Val-d'Or Foreurs in the President's Cup. After the season, Lecavalier was named a first-team All-Star and won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL's best pro prospect.
The Early Years
June 27, 1998
After piling up an impressive resume in junior hockey, the Bolts selected Lecavalier first overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. In addition to Vinny, Tampa Bay drafted three other forwards who would play with Lecavalier on the Cup team six years later: Brad Richards, Dmitri Afanasenkov and Martin Cibak.
Prior to his third NHL season, Lecavalier was named the Lightning's captain. At 19 years and 314 days, Lecavalier became the youngest captain in NHL history at the time. The season didn't go well for the Bolts or Lecavalier; the team went 24-47-6, finishing last in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference and head coach John Tortorella stripped Lecavalier of his captaincy after the year ended.
Tortorella said he saw Lecavalier mature after having the 'C' taken off his uniform. Vinny made that clear with an impressive 2002-03 campaign. Playing in 80 games that season, Lecavalier recorded 78 points (33 goals, 35 assists) and helped the Lightning win their first Southeast Division title, advance to the playoffs for the second time and win the first playoff series in franchise history.
The Stanley Cup
April 27, 2004
Arguably the biggest goal of Lecavalier's career came in the Lightning's second round playoff series against Montreal. After winning the first two games in Tampa, the Bolts trailed Montreal 3-2 with less than a minute to play. Lecavalier took a feed from Dave Andrechyuk in front of the goal and jammed the puck past Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore to force overtime. The Lightning would go on to win the game and eventually sweep the series.
The goal had added meaning for Lecavalier, a native of Quebec. Playing in front of friends and family in his number four sweater to honor Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, the goal was a signature moment in Lecavalier's career.
May 29, 2004
The Lightning and Flames split the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals in Tampa. With the series shifting to Calgary for games three and four the Bolts needed to take command. Lecavalier set the tone early in game three, challenging Calgary captain Jerome Iginla to a fight in the first period. The fact that Lecavalier, not known as a fighter, challenged a tough guy like Iginla definitely made a statement.
June 7, 2004
The Lightning won its first Stanley Cup, defeating the Flames 2-1 in a dramatic Game 7. Lecavalier played a major role in the Cup clinching goal. Working down below the goalline, Levacalier dug the puck out of the corner, dragged it between the legs of a Calgary defenseman and fed Ruslan Fedotenko in the slot who one-timed the puck past Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Face of Hockey
Lecavalier was cast to play Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau (the reason Lecavalier wore the number 4) in The Rocket (2005), a film about Maurice Richard.
Lecavalier's face graced the cover of EA Sports' NHL 06 video game. Lecavalier became the first player from any of Tampa Bay's three professional teams to grace the cover of a video game franchise.
Lecavalier's best statistical season came two years after the NHL lockout. Lecavalier set a career-mark with 52 goals, 56 assists and 108 points. After the season, he was awarded the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer in the league. Until Steven Stamkos scored 60 goals in the 2011-12 season, Lecavalier's 52 stood as the most goals by a Lightning player in a season.
A Second Chance At The Captaincy
September 18, 2008
Prior to the start of the 2008-09 season, the Lightning named Lecavalier captain once again. His second tenure as Tampa Bay's captain would go much better than the first. In his five years spent as captain, Lecavalier scored 111 goals and led the Lightning to a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011.
A Hero Away From The Rink
The Vincent Lecavalier Foundation
Lecavalier's legacy in Tampa Bay goes far beyond his accomplishments in a Lightning sweater. During his 14 year career in Tampa Bay, Lecavalier was the face of the franchise on and off the ice.
Through his work with the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation, Vinny has worked tirelessly to help children fighting Cancer. In 2007, Lecavalier's foundation raised $3 million dollars to build the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
For the children at the hospital receiving treatment, the line between NHL superstar and humanitarian blurred. It was just as common to see Lecavalier in scrubs and visiting with patients as it was to see him in a hockey jersey and scoring goals.
November 27, 2013
And as a reflection of Lecavalier's commitment to the children he helps and the Tampa Bay community, his involvement in the area didn't end when he moved on to Philadelphia. In his first trip to Tampa Bay as a visitor, the organization that drafted him honored that commitment, naming Lecavalier a Lightning Community Hero and providing his foundation with a $50,000 grant.
June 27, 2013
The Lightning announced that they would buyout Lecavalier's contract, making him a free agent. With $45 million remaining on the contract, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman made the move with the long-term interest of the club in mind. Lecavalier then signed a five year, $22.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
January 6, 2016
After two and a half years in Philadelphia, Lecavalier was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Lecavalier finished out the final season of his career nicely, scoring 10 goals and recording 7 assists over the last 42 games of the 2015-16 season.
June 21, 2016
Lecavalier announced his retirement from professional hockey after 17 years spent in the NHL.
#4 Through The Years
We watched him grow up before our eyes. From the number one overall selection, to a Stanley Cup Champion, to the face of the franchise on and off the ice, Vinny Lecavalier represented our organization and out community with the utmost class.
Special thanks to Scott Audette, Champions Fund, Hockey-Reference.com, Hockeydb.com, NHL.com and Getty Images.