TAMPA - For nearly half their lives, Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier have skated on the same sheet of ice.
The players have been with the same organization for all but one season since they were barely teenagers at Notre Dame Academy in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. With the exception of the two years Lecavalier played in the NHL before Richards made it, they have been on the same team. Even during the 2004-05 lockout, both signed with the same Russian League team.
When Lecavalier suits up for Tampa Bay tonight against Minnesota, it will mark the first time he and Richards have been in different organizations since Lecavalier's first year of junior hockey in 1996-97.
"It's always tough to see a friend leave, especially your best friend, so it's a tough day," said Lecavalier, who went to see Richards after Tuesday's practice. "I think the last week we knew what direction everything was going, so we talked not just Tuesday. It's tough.
"It's tough for him. I think everybody is afraid of change. I don't think things have gone the way he wanted the past two years, and he's going to have a fresh start."
Parting ways with Lecavalier was a difficult part of accepting the trade to the Stars, Richards said.
"I've played on every team in my life since I was 14 with him. He's my best friend," Richards said. "It goes without saying, that part was tough."