Quebec native Vincent Lecavalier scored 52 goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season to lead the entire NHL and was given the Richard Trophy at an awards luncheon on Saturday.
The Richard Trophy was first handed out in 1999. It’s previously been won by Canadians from Ontario and Alberta along with Russians, a Finn and a Czech.
Lecavalier is the first Francophone to have his name inscribed on it.
“It means a lot,” said Lecavalier, who was born in Ile Bizard, Que. “Maurice Richard is a legend in Montreal and even though I didn’t really see him play, we still heard stories about him.
“I never thought that it would happen and it did. I’m very happy that everything went the way it did this year.”
Richard’s younger brother, Henri, presented Lecavalier with the trophy. He accepted it by shaking hands with Henri Richard and saying: “Merci beaucoup.”
It was the final award presented on a day when Sidney Crosby was given the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in points and Minnesota Wild goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez shared the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against.
Crosby has had quite a week after being named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday – making him the youngest player ever to be given such responsibility.
Lecavalier is the next youngest player to have been a captain in the NHL, but the two had yet to discuss that before attending Game 3 of the Stanley Cup on Saturday night.
“No, we haven’t,” said Crosby. “We’ll have time tonight I’m sure.”
There would certainly be a lot to talk about.
Like Crosby, Lecavalier entered the league with a lot of expectations after being a junior star with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic and getting selected first overall in the NHL draft.
The similarities seem to end there.
It took Lecavalier time to adjust to the spotlight and he was stripped of his captaincy less than two years after receiving it. That’s now well in the past as Lecavalier has since won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning and established himself as one of the league’s best players.
His story only illustrates how remarkable of a player Crosby is.
“I got in the league at 18 years old and it’s very tough,” said Lecavalier. “You’re playing against guys that are 30 years old and are 250 pounds. They’re strong physically.
“To do what he’s doing right now is unbelievable.”
Crosby held the league’s scoring lead from early December until the end of the season, eventually finishing with 120 points. San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton finished second with 114.
It was a considerable achievement for a young player who has exceeded expectations his entire life.
“He’s 19 years old,” said Lecavalier. “I can’t even imagine how great he’s going to be at 26 or 27.”
Indeed, one can imagine that this probably won’t be the last awards ceremony that Crosby attends.
He says that winning the scoring title was never really a goal. After getting his first taste of the NHL playoffs this spring before being eliminated by Ottawa, there’s only one trophy on his mind.
“It’s always nice to win individual awards and I don’t want to take anything away from them because they’re accomplishments and something I’m proud of,” said Crosby. “But when you look back on your career you want to be able to win the Stanley Cup.
“I think that’s something that drives me every time I play.”
On Friday night, Crosby had the chance to speak with Henri Richard and fellow Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, who have won 21 NHL championships between them.
That might have been the highlight of his whole trip.
“Here I am talking about trying to win one Stanley Cup and those guys have 10 or 11,” Crosby said with a laugh. “It doesn’t seem fair.”