He is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.
He was taken first overall in the 1998 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He is 25, yet already is in his seventh NHL season.
He is alternate captain of the Lightning, who just happen to be the defending Stanley Cup champions. And, oh yeah, he might just be the league’s most talented player.
He is Vincent Lecavalier.
While Vinny (as he is affectionately known by Bay area residents) prepared for this highly anticipated hockey season, he kindly relaxed and chatted for awhile with South Tampa Magazine outside his Harbour Island residence. The topics included life, his Canadian roots, a recent trip to Russia, his one indulgence and, of course, hockey. On the ice, Vinny is known for his, pardon the pun, lightning-quick speed. As you’ll see, he’s pretty sharp off it, too.
How many teeth have you lost?
None. I’m lucky, but knock on wood [taps the bench with his knuckles].
That’s amazing. How many teeth have you knocked out of someone else?
That’s a good question. I’m sure there were a few because it happens to almost everybody.
You’re on the cover of the video game EA Sports NHL ‘06. How cool was that?
Very cool. You grow up playing those games like Nintendo and now you’re on the cover. It’s pretty amazing. When they called me I said yes right away.
Do you play the game?
I’ve played it. I used to play more when I was 16 and 17.
Did you know that there’s a turtle at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium named after you?
No, I did not.
It’s a 98-pound loggerhead sea turtle that was found with a long hook line in its throat at the St. Lucie Power Plant.
Really? I’ll have to go check it out.
I don’t have a favorite.
Tell us about your experience in Russia.
It was a good experience, but I definitely missed Tampa. I missed the weather, the hockey and the people. I mean, we couldn’t communicate with anybody. It’s extremely cold. You have to wear the big jackets and hats. It’s different from wearing shorts and sandals.
What was the best part about Russia?
It’s like a big New York City. It has 14 or 15 million people. There are unbelievable restaurants… the Red Square [is amazing]. It’s definitely a different world over there.
Sounds like a great opportunity.
It really was. It was fun.
What was the worst part? I heard some of the rinks and locker rooms weren’t very sanitary.
They were awful — like nothing I had ever seen in minor hockey. They were like little barns.
So you’re telling me you didn’t walk around barefoot?
Exactly. You’d have to go see it. You don’t believe it until you’re there. But overall it was a good experience.
What did you miss the most while you were away?
Everything. I enjoyed the experience, but I wasn’t in my element. I’m used to warm weather in the winter.
And having a hot shower, I’m sure.
Exactly. That’s another thing.
Enough about hockey. Let’s get to know you. What other things define you that we may not know about?
I love to travel. I just recently went back to Russia.
Four days to visit some friends. Then I went to Japan to visit my sister who lives there and then to South Africa.
Yeah, I love it. I just went swimming with Great White sharks. I went sky diving. [Smiling] Not sure I was allowed to do that.
We can’t have you breaking your back.
I know. That wouldn’t be good, but it was the experience of a lifetime.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a professional athlete?
Knowing I’m at the top of my profession.
What’s your least favorite? Being asked about your love life?
Yeah, that’s definitely one. But I would say when things start to go bad. If we’re losing three games in a row and I see people in the street and they’re constantly asking me what’s going on. That’s probably the worst part. But when you win, it’s unbelievable.
What are the attributes you think make for a successful hockey player?
I think you have to be smart. Some guys don’t necessarily look as good as others on the ice or aren’t as fast, but they play smart.
Are you pretty health conscious?
I am, but my thing is that I love chocolate. So after a meal I need to have my chocolate. But a month before the season I try to cut back. I do like to eat healthy as well, though. I like fish and other proteins. I’m pretty healthy.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing hockey?
I’m pretty active. I train in the mornings and after that I play golf. I have a little boat in Montreal, and I go out on that and just relax.
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing hockey?
I honestly have no idea because I was fortunate enough to make it into the NHL when I was 18, and usually kids that are in high school don’t necessarily know what they’re going to do… so I don’t know.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Hopefully with a family and taking care of my kids.
What’s your greatest strength?
I’m pretty determined when I put my mind to something.
What about your weakness?
I can be pretty lazy in the house. Things I don’t like to do… I’m lazy.
What did you want to be growing up?
Firefighter. My dad was a firefighter.
What was your first car?
My first car was a BMW M3.
Really? I thought I was lucky with my Bronco II.
What are a couple of your favorite songs on your iPod?
Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and “Speed of Light” from Coldplay.
Where do you go to escape?
End of season is when I leave for two weeks and don’t think about anything. Just relax and see the world.
And your favorite vacation destination?
They’re so different. I love South Africa. I went on a safari for three days. When you see lions 4 feet from you, it’s pretty exciting. I went to Cape Town and it was a beautiful city.
Do you consider yourself approachable?
Yeah, I’m very approachable.
If a fan wants your autograph, what are the dos and don’ts with Vinny?
There are only dos, but if I’m busy doing something and I’m tied up, just wait one minute. I will always sign something.
And there you have it. Proof that when he’s not bodychecking his opponents into the glass or breaking away for a one-on-one with a goalie, Vinny is a relaxed, approachable, regular guy.
Don’t want to be there.
Martin St. Louis:
Speedy — and short, too.
Madison Square Garden:
Dream come true.
I can’t live without…
I start each day with a…
If I were a businessman, I would love to own…
Real estate like Donald Trump.
I never travel without…
By the time I am 40, I would like to be…
Still playing hockey.
My greatest inspiration is…
My parents. My dad worked four jobs. Hockey equipment wasn’t cheap.
My favorite comedian is…
The movie I’ve seen the most is…
“Black Hawk Down.” I’ve seen it 15 to 20 times.
If you look in my fridge, you’re guaranteed to find…
When I make it to the mall, you’ll find me at…
The CD store.