At 14, Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier talked about winning a Stanley Cup. Now they have.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 9, 2004
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Longtime friends Vinny Lecavalier, left, and Brad Richards are 24-year-old centers who matured into vital components of a title run.
TAMPA - As Brad Richards remembers, his first conversation with Vinny Lecavalier about winning the Stanley Cup came when they were 14 years old in a dorm room at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Saskatchewan.
Richards remembered another in June 1999 when he stayed for the summer with his best friend at Lecavalier's rented house outside Montreal and they watched on television as Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher carried the Cup after Dallas' triple-overtime defeat of the Sabres.
There were other conversations of course, too numerous to recall, though Richards and Lecavalier tried to refresh each other's memories early Tuesday morning in the Lightning locker room.
A few hours earlier Monday night, Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 victory over the Flames in Game 7 at the St. Pete Times Forum. All of a sudden, those old memories held by the Lightning's brightest young stars were overcome by the fulfillment of a dream.
"We've been friends forever," Richards said. "To do this together is unimaginable. There's no possible way to describe it. It's better than anything you can imagine."
"He's one of my best friends," Lecavalier said. "We've been together 10 years and been through a lot. Playing on the same teams over and over again and winning the toughest trophy to get in sports, and winning it together. It's a great feeling."
The 24-year-old centers have been attached at the hip since their days at Notre Dame. They played a season together for Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Lecavalier left for the NHL in 1998 after the Lightning drafted him No. 1 overall.
Richards, drafted by Tampa Bay in the third round that year, stayed two more seasons in Rimouski before signing and joining his buddy in Tampa, where they live in the same community on Harbour Island.
The Lightning won 51 games their first two seasons and did not make the playoffs. It won 82 their second two and made the postseason in both.
There were times against the Flames they played on the same line, with Richards shifting to wing. They played together on the power play. They took turns on the penalty kill.
Both were forces in the postseason. Richards, with 12 goals and a playoff-high 26 points, was given the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
Lecavalier's nine goals included some showstoppers such as the between-the-legs magic trick that tied it against the Canadiens with 16.5 seconds left in the third period of Game 3 and set up Richards' winner in OT.
And Lecavalier's pass to Ruslan Fedotenko on the winning goal in Game 7 against the Flames was a thing of beauty.
The boys are competitive, though. But Lecavalier said he was thrilled Richards was named MVP.
"It doesn't matter who does this or who does that," Lecavalier said. "We won as a team and Brad is a big part of that. He needed the team and he helped me to win the Stanley Cup."
As for hoisting it. ...
"Everybody talks about how heavy it is, but at the time I felt like I could lift the world so it didn't seem quite as heavy to me," Richards said. "I thought it was the biggest honor to grab it from Marty St. Louis and put it over my head on the ice."
Of skating with the trophy, Lecavalier said, "It was the best part of the night."
Both gave the Cup a kiss. Then they shared a hug and a howl of what Lecavalier called "pure joy."
Tuesday was pure fun. By early afternoon Richards had not yet been to sleep and announced his intention to "party all day."
By 2 p.m., Lecavalier was up and eating with some buddies.
"I'm starting to call people at home and return some messages," Richards said. "Every 10 minutes I say, "We just won the Stanley Cup.' I excuse myself, but that's all I can say."
"What's next?," Lecavalier said. "We're going to enjoy this and then win another one."