Dave Andreychuk statue reason to remember group effort in Stanley Cup run

Former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk speaks to the crowd after the team unveiled a statue in his likeness holding up the Stanley Cup.

Chris O'Meara/AP

TAMPA, Fla. — This is more than a statue for Dave Andreychuk. His face is cast in bronze and his arms raise the Stanley Cup from that magical year, but there’s more to this honor.

The message has been repeated over and over in this 10th anniversary season. It’s never wrong. It’s never misguided.

Group memory over solo impact. Team achievement over the influence of one.

"Whew," the former captain said from a stage outside Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday, when the life-size statue was unveiled, "that’s pretty exciting."

Yes, this is more than a statue for Andreychuk. It’s a reason to rekindle the memory of that championship season, now preserved forever in the metal’s shine. It’s a reason to remember all that was required to reach the top for a franchise then only 11 years old. It’s a reason to honor all the names etched in Lightning lore — young and old, dreamers and vets who dared to deliver hockey’s greatest prize to the Suncoast.

That’s what you hear when Andreychuk and others talk about the statue. It’s "we," not "I." It’s "us," no "me."

It’s fitting, because hockey is such a team game that no one man can reach the top alone.

"This means more to them than it does to me," Andreychuk said of his former teammates. "We are now going to be immortalized, of that day — on June 7, 2004. Anybody who walks into this building is going to remember that day."

Sometimes, that day seems long ago, even if it’s rather recent. The Lightning have had four coaches since then, they’ve reached the playoffs just four times counting this season, they’ve advanced past the Eastern Conference quarterfinals just once with a berth in the conference finals in 2011. Much has happened.

The faces from that championship team are older now. The reunion night on March 17 at Tampa Bay Times Forum was an insight into what time’s passing does to the perception of our stars. The beards were gone. The quickness on the ice too. Coach John Tortorella had coached two other teams since leaving Tampa.

Age knows no pause button.

Love of the game

But the Andreychuk statue is a way to cheat a little. There, it’s always June 7, 2004, with the cheers washing over him and others after a seven-game grind against the Calgary Flames. There, the good feelings are preserved, the energy captured after the most grueling quest in American professional sports. There, the sensation of such an unpredictable outcome will offer a tingle over and over, no matter the season, no matter the time.

"No one expected it," former Lightning winger Chris Dingman said. "No one really gave us respect. You go to the Hall of Fame, our names are there. You come in the building now, you see Espo’s (Phil Esposito’s) statue and now Dave’s statue. We’re recognizing that we’re building a history here in Tampa."

The past and future always seem joined. They were Saturday. Former members of the 2003-04 squad like Dingman and defenseman Jassen Cullimore watched the ceremony near the stage. Later Saturday, the video board at Tampa Bay Times Forum played a message from current captain Steven Stamkos that wished Andreychuk well.

But the praise might as well have been directed at each man who sweat and bled to hoist the Cup.

That’s what Andreychuk’s honor means. It’s about more than one man. The 10th anniversary offers a nice, round number to plan ceremonies and spark memories from that run. But year No. 10 will become No. 11, then No. 12, then No. 13, then more.

Some will forget.

Moments in Lightning History

The statue will be there to offer goosebumps again.

"To me it’s to celebrate the day, to celebrate what actually happened," Andreychuk said. "Not really about me and what I did. It’s what our team did, what the community did. And I’m so proud."

The pride should never go away. Statues are our highest praise. They’re our attempt at immortality, and in many ways, the Lightning succeeded in what was unveiled Saturday night.

But the honor goes beyond one face, one name, one Cup.

Group glory over solo satisfaction. Team triumph over singular gain.

"We should be proud," Andreychuk said. "This community, we were world champions at one time. It wasn’t just about what happened in the building. It’s really about the whole community."

That’s the right way to recall the 2003-2004 magic, always and forever.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.