EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Although he said it back in January, when he joined the Los Angeles Kings, veteran center Vincent Lecavalier confirmed once again on Apr. 24 that he will retire now that the Kings’ season is over.
“It’s definitely still the plan,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about it the last couple of days. People are texting me, but I haven’t really thought about it. Yeah, it’s the same plan as when I first got here a few months ago.”
That couple of days Lecavalier referred to was the time elapsed since the Kings were unceremoniously bounced out of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, dropping the series to the San Jose Sharks in five games.
“That last shift [of Game 5 on Apr. 22], I was out there the last 22 seconds,” said Lecavalier. “Definitely a weird feeling. Anytime you lose like that it’s tough. It was a tough series. I still think it could’ve gone either way, but there’s got to be a winner, so you’ve got to give them credit for that.”
Lecavalier added that some of the Sharks players wished him well during the handshake line after Game 5.
“A few guys were really nice about it,” he noted. “A couple of guys said, ‘keep playing.’ It was a great. Some guys said they watched my career—the younger guys over there.”
Lecavalier reiterated his feelings about being given a chance to play with the Kings when it looked like he might never play meaningful minutes again in Philadelphia.
“It’s tough to process anything right now,” said Lecavalier. “Really, it’s only been a couple of days here. But honestly, to be able to get a chance to play—I know I’ve said it over and over, but I think back to November. I was talking to [Kings President/Business Operations and fellow Quebec native] Luc [Robitaille]. ‘Hey, I think I’m going to be stuck here. I’m not playing.’
“Getting a chance to play on this team, and obviously, we didn’t go where we wanted to go at the end of it, but to get a chance to play, to have fun, and to learn, it was just a great time,” added Lecavalier. “I always had that confidence, deep down, that I could still do well. It was great. This is a great team, and I know they’re going to win again, just by the way they act, the leadership group, and the talent they have.”
“I’ve had a lot of good moments. One of the best was, obviously, winning the Cup. But to get a second chance at playing when you think you might not play again was great. This was just a really good experience for me, the last three or four months.”
Lecavalier indicated that he has not given much thought to life after hockey, although he does plan to move back to Tampa, Florida, and work to build local and youth hockey in the area.
“We’ve always planned to go to Tampa,” he said. “I spent 14 years there. I mean, Montreal is home, but Tampa feels like home, as well. I assume we’ll go back there.”
“I’m not sure what I want to do right now,” he added. “There’s probably ten guys from when we won the Cup who are there now, and I think they’re growing the game. I think there’s ten or eleven guys who played there, and they’re growing youth hockey. I think that’s important. I see it here, and I asked people, ‘wow! Has this always been like this? This is unreal. My son’s been playing and it’s a great program.”
“They said [it’s grown] the last four or five years, which makes sense. The winning brings—hockey gets bigger. The Kings [are] involved. That’s what hockey teams have to do to grow the game. You have to have good programs for the kids to get better, and they do a great job here. I’m going to try to help in Tampa, for sure.”
Although the long-term plan is for his family to return to Tampa, they’ll remain in Southern California for the time being.
“I’ll stay here for awhile,” he noted. “My oldest is still in school, so I’ll stay in California, with the family. It’s a great area to live in.”