Ask Lightning captain Marty St. Louis about former teammate Pavel Kubina, and you get an arm's-length list of reasons he was so effective on the ice.
"He played the game hard," St. Louis said. "He blocked a lot of shots, and he had a pretty good offensive flair that was probably underrated."
But there also was this: "He was a good soul," St. Louis said. "He was a good human being."
It is worth remembering as Kubina, 36, officially announced his retirement Friday after 13 seasons, including 10 in two stints with Tampa Bay.
Kubina was a funny guy. He made fun of you but never mocked and did it in such a way you could laugh at yourself.
He was sensitive, too. During the 2003 playoffs, a Kubina slap shot gashed the face of Devils defenseman Scott Stevens. Several New Jersey players accused Kubina of deliberately shooting at Stevens in an attempt to injure.
Kubina answered the charge the next day, so upset at its nature that his voice quivered. The next season, New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur admitted it was all a ploy to try to unnerve the big Czech.
That was difficult to do on the ice. At 6 feet 4, 258 pounds, Kubina, a seventh-round draft choice in 1996 (179th overall), was a horse. He played his best in the biggest moments and relished facing the game's biggest stars. The picture of him looming over a fallen Jaromir Jagr during the 2003 playoffs against the Capitals is a classic.
Kubina still holds the Lightning record for defensemen with 72 goals. He was part of Tampa Bay's 2003-04 Stanley Cup team. He is a three-time Olympian (bronze in 2006) and won three world championships.
An argument can be made that, given his career, Kubina was Tampa Bay's most savvy draft choice.
But as former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said of his former teammate, who also played for the Thrashers, Maple Leafs and Flyers: "He's a guy who you always liked to be around. He was always laughing. He always had fun with his teammates. I was his roommate for a year when we first started. Just a great guy."
And that is a great way to be remembered.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]