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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

Fennelly: 10 years after Bolts’ title, Andreychuk etched in eternity

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Published:   |   Updated: March 17, 2014 at 06:44 AM

TAMPA — Former ice hockey captain Dave Andreychuk is now Tampa Bay Lightning vice president for corporate and community affairs.

Next month, he’ll be a statue.

The club will dedicate a likeness of Andreychuk to honor the 2003-04 Stanley Cup champions.

Remember them?

The statue will man the Forum plaza — the captain holding Stanley over his head on a June night 10 years ago. What a night.

“It’s something for the community,” Andreychuk said. “I think it’s cool that anyone who comes to the arena gets to relive that moment. Where were you when that happened? And they’ll tell their kids where they were. And that’s the coolest thing, that this will live on. People will know: This happened here.”

That team celebrated and was celebrated all weekend. It continues tonight when the Lightning play Vancouver. The Cup is in town. A pile of players from that team are here, as is that ol’ Yap Shutter, John Tortorella, here with his Canucks.

Yes, there are guys who can’t make it. They’re still playing. Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Dan Boyle won’t be present. One stunning late scratch is Marty St. Louis. Andreychuk, who did a lot of the coordinating for this reunion, had expected Marty to take the ceremonial faceoff tonight. It makes the night slightly awkward.

“Marty was the last one still here,” Andreychuk said.

The captain and his teammates signed autographs Sunday afternoon and posed for photos. They also had their own snapshots taken next to Stanley, with their families, with each other. Some of the ’04s looked for their names on the Cup, as if making sure they were still on it. All weekend, they retold stories that never get old. They’ll walk together forever.

This happened here.

The captain turned 50 in September. He sat in his office last week and remembered. It was like he was: 40. He was the guy who’d tied a record by spending 22 years in the NHL without winning the Cup. And now he was about to do it. It was Game 7 of the Cup finals. It was June 7, 2004.

And the captain was in the box.

“Penalty box. Tripping.” Andreychuk said, smiling. “What was it, 10 seconds left? I’m in there. But I think it was awesome for me, because I wasn’t sitting on the bench, but I was watching the bench. I got to see the guys, their faces, the whole celebration. I also got to look at my family, at everybody’s families, because (Section) 129 was where they all sat.

“Every one of those guys, every name on that Cup, you can name something they did, something that will last. I think a lot of these guys are realizing it now, appreciating it even more, how important it was. … You might never get back again. I’m sure a lot of them are thinking about that. Marty, Richy, Vinny, Dan Boyle, a lot of them, they haven’t made it back. To get back to the finals, it’s not easy. We needed to seize the opportunity, because it might never happen again. I was living proof. And we seized it.

“I think now our community realizes how special it was. I think everybody was a little spoiled. We had a lot of new hockey fans who thought that this was going to happen every year. I think now they realize it doesn’t.”

And how.

The captain thought back to the night he lifted the Cup, about what they’d done, the injuries they’d played through and even hidden. Two months, 23 games, a forced march the whole way. It will always be theirs, that season.

“For good,” Andreychuk said.

They didn’t get to defend the Cup the following year. There was the lockout. Then the team broke apart. To a man, they feel robbed.

“Absolutely,” Andreychuk said. “We were all signed. We were all ready to come back. ... I really would have liked to have seen what we would have done.”

Tonight is about what they did.

This happened here.

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