A thousand games ago, he was a skinny Tampa Bay Lightning rookie, the next big thing, top draft pick, No. 1 overall, happy as could be. I can still picture him back then, a kid in his brand new Ferrari, doing doughnuts in the arena parking lot.

Fifteen years later. He's a husband. He's a father of two, soon to be three. He has grown up before our eyes. These days, he drives a truck. Mind you, he still owns a Ferrari. The other day, he went to start it.

"The battery was dead," Vinny Lecavalier said with a smile. "I hadn't used it in a month."

Times have changed. One thing hasn't:

Vincent Lecavalier, 32, exactly 1,001 games into his NHL career, remains as happy as could be.

"I feel young," he said. "I really do."

Tonight, before No. 1,002, before the game with Ottawa at the Forum, the Lightning will honor Lecavalier. The league will present him with a silver stick. There will be other gifts, before family and friends, before teammates past and present. It's no small milestone, more so since Vinny has done it all right here, every game, for this one team.

He has traveled every road you can as a professional. He is on his fourth Lightning owner and sixth Lightning coach. Scores of teammates have come and gone. Here is Vinny, still.

Vinny has lived all the hockey lives you can live. He has been good, great and not very great at all. Everything has been said or written about him. He has been a 50-goal scorer, a Richard Trophy winner — and he has been trade bait. Over the years, Vinny has been exhilarating. Over the years, Vinny has been exasperating.

And he has been a Stanley Cup champion.