For a few moments, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier were back on the ice together with the crowd going wild.
Only this time, they had ceremonial blue carpet under their feet.
The NHL stars, back in their junior home Rimouski for Memorial Cup festivities, helped drop the puck on the all-Quebec round-robin finale between the Oceanic and Drummondville.
They oversaw a dandy. The Voltigeurs advanced straight to tomorrow’s semifinal on Gabriel Dumont’s goal 13:23 into overtime in a 3-2 win before 5,062 last night at the Colisee.
Host Rimouski must regroup to face the OHL champ Windsor Spitfires in the tie-breaker game tonight.
The former Tampa Bay Lightning teammates are serving as honorary presidents for this Cup. So is Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, but he’s embroiled in the NHL’s Eastern Conference final and too busy to come back.
“I knew Sid since he was a young kid,” Richards said. “He has family in PEI and we have mutual friends. He called before he made his decision to come to Rimouski and see, for an English player, what kind of set-up they have here.
“They do everything first class so it was a no-brainer for me to tell him, ‘Play in Rimouski, you’ll have a great time.’ It worked out great for him.”
It worked out well for Lecavalier, who became the first Oceanic player to be drafted No. 1 overall in the 1998 NHL draft, and Richards, who won a Memorial Cup with the club two years later.
They won a Stanley Cup together in 2004, but in the post-lockout NHL salary cap era, they became too big stars and too highly paid to keep them both with the Bolts.
Last year, Richards was dealt to the Dallas Stars. Neither team made the playoffs this season and Lecavalier’s Lightning will pick second in next month’s draft in Montreal a year after drafting first.
“I wish we could’ve kept that whole (2004 Tampa) team together,” Richards said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to play together in the Olympics and the World Cup. If we ever got the opportunity to play together again, that would be great.”
They remain best friends. When Richards paused to search for the right word in French, Lecavalier leaned in and helped him find it.
“We played together since we were 14,” he said. “Seven years in Tampa, winning together — it was definitely different when Brad got traded.
“I hope that one day it happens. I don’t know if it will.”
Lecavalier was rumoured to be heading to Montreal this year. Nothing has developed further on that front.
“I spoke to Brian Lawton, but not about that,” Lecavalier said. “The last time we talked about rumours was when he said after the all-star game that he wasn’t trading me and that if there ever was anything, he’d talk to me first and give me a piece of paper to put five teams down.”