At 7 months old, Victoria Lecavalier is way too young to understand Christmas, much less the commotion surrounding it: the 10-foot light-covered tree in the living room, the spirit of the season — and who are all these people who have shown up at the family's Davis Islands home? Even the gifts — and Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier and wife Caroline admitted they will spoil their first child — won't hold much allure. "She'll have no clue," Lecavalier said. "She'll probably rip everything up and try to put it in her mouth and eat it." And cameras will click and video cameras roll. "It's like a magical moment for me, for Vince," Caroline said. "We're just blessed to have her. It's a special Christmas for us, for sure." Christmas always has been special to Lecavalier and Caroline, who were married in August and have been together since 2002.
When Lecavalier was 13 or 14 years old, growing up in the Montreal suburb of Ile Bizard, he once dressed as Santa — white beard, pillows under his coat, a sack of gifts over his shoulder, the whole thing.
Walking through the snow and down the street toward his family's home at about 9 o'clock on Christmas Eve, Lecavalier recalls, his younger relatives "looked out the window and couldn't believe it."
For Caroline, Christmas always has been about family, which is why she is so looking forward to a two-day feast she will cook in Tampa for 13 people, including her parents, Lecavalier's parents, siblings and their families.
Both said it took a little time to get used to snowless Florida Christmases, and both want to continue their family traditions of opening most gifts on Christmas Eve after attending church.
But there is no doubt who is the star of the show.
"It's going to be something special, and all around Victoria," said Lecavalier's father, Yvon.
Yvon admitted he was a little worried about how his son would handle fatherhood.
"At 30 years old, I think you get spoiled a little bit with life," he said.
But seeing Vinny and Victoria together stifled any concerns.
"It's a new life for him," Yvon said. "I'm very happy to see the way he is with his daughter. He plays with her. He's going out with her, brings her everywhere he can."
It has helped that Lecavalier has been around her a lot.
Victoria was born in May, so she and dad had four months to bond before September training camp. Then Lecavalier missed a month of the season with a knuckle injury, a month in which 10 of the 15 games he missed were on the road.
So Lecavalier was home much more than he had planned.
"And that was only a positive to get comfortable with her and for her to get more comfortable with me," Lecavalier said.
"He's very good with her, and it's so nice to see them together," Caroline said. "It was bad for him to be injured, but on the family side, it was good for her to know her dad more."
While Caroline spoke, Lecavalier's focus was completely on his daughter. He held her, spoke to her softly and made her smile, which wasn't a tough assignment. Victoria seems to smile at everything.
"I guess you can't really predict how much you're going to love your kid," Lecavalier said.
"I mean, you know you love your kid, but when you know she's there smiling at you, that's when you realize. That's what all the dads were telling me in the dressing room. You don't know it until it happens. Well, it's true."
In that sense this Christmas, it is Victoria who is spoiling her dad.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.