TAMPA —The eastern Quebec town of Gaspe is filled with the extended Paquette family, so many that gathering them all in one place is a daunting task. In fact, it has never happened.
"We're a big family. We're huge," Lightning prospect Christopher Paquette said. "I have so many cousins, I don't know them all. Some I haven't met."
There are chance meetings here and there, some around town, some in far-flung places like the hallway outside the visitor's dressing room at Amalie Arena.
That is where Christopher Paquette bumped into Cedric, a distant cousin who plays center for the Lightning.
Christopher has followed Cedric's hockey career. Watched him on TV. Read family posts about him on Facebook. But until one morning two weeks ago during rookie camp, the two had never met.
"Oh I recognized him," Christopher said. "For sure I recognized him."
Cedric walked over to that side of locker room area to say hi. Both were busy. Cedric said they would catch up later.
"It's pretty bizarre," Cedric said. "I knew he was playing hockey in Ontario, but I didn't know if he was going to get drafted. I didn't know how good he was. When he got drafted, I thought I knew the name. I called my dad, and he said, 'Yeah, he's a cousin.' "
Cedric grew up in Gaspe. The 23-year-old began his climb to the Lightning in 2010 when he joined the Montreal Juniors. He was a fourth-round pick by the Lightning in 2012.
Christopher, 18, did not grow up in Gaspe, just visited. Loves the place. Loves being with his family. But his father, a cousin of Cedric's dad, joined the Navy and moved around Canada.
Christopher was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and lived for a time in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He now lives in Kingston, Ontario, which is 12 hours south of Gaspe.
A fifth-round pick last June by the Lightning, Christopher plays center for the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League. He will continue to play for them two more seasons before beginning what he expects to be his climb through the Lightning organization.
"When it's the right time, maybe go up," he said.
Christopher's time in Lightning camp this month will be short. Because of his age he is still the property of his junior team. But he's glad for the chance to work with the top coaches in the organization and perform in front of the decision-makers, including general manager Steve Yzerman. And he's thrilled to share a building, if not some ice time, with the members of the NHL club.
"Learn and try to develop," he said, "and bring those back to juniors and hopefully develop those skills."
Christopher is not sure the Lightning knew he was related to Cedric when it scouted him. Heck, neither was Cedric until he placed that call to his dad.
The two have a similar build, as you might expect. Cedric is 6 feet 1, 199 pounds. Christopher is 6-1, 207.
Their games are similar, Christopher said, though he's a right-hand shot and Cedric shoots left-handed.
"I try to play a 200-foot game," he said. "Backcheck. Forecheck. Support the defense. Try and add to the attack."
Christopher said his game is not as, ah, feisty as his cousin's.
The two planned to have dinner before Christopher heads north to prepare for his season. He will return to the IceDogs thrilled to have this opportunity with the Lightning and glad to have finally met the cousin everyone in the family has talked about for years.
He even survived a rookie hiccup on his first day.
"It's special. It's obviously a big dream," Christopher said. "I almost got lost my first day. I was outside (the arena) and I didn't know where to go in."
He does now. And he can say he knows another cousin.