Martin St. Louis spent over 12 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before his midseason trade last year brought him to Broadway. Tonight marks the first time he will set foot in the St. Pete Times Forum since that trade. In those 12+ seasons with Tampa Bay, Marty scored 365 goals, had 588 assists (953 points in 972 games), won two Art Ross trophies for most points (’04, ’13), won a Hart and a Lester B. Pearson (’03-’04), won three Lady Byngs (’10, ’11, ’13), was a six-time All Star (’03, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11), and –most importantly– won a Stanley Cup in 2004. He should get a heroes welcome in Tampa.
But, the marriage ended poorly. New General Manager Steve Yzerman snubbed Marty for the 2014 Winter Olympics, initially not selecting him for Team Canada’s roster. Marty –who, for a long time, wanted to come to New York to be closer to his family in Connecticut– requested a trade. Not only that, he requested a trade to one team and one team only: The New York Rangers. That puts a GM in a very tight spot.
On March 5, 2014, Marty was dealt to the Rangers with a second round pick in 2015 for Ryan Callahan and a pair of first round picks (2014, 2015). It was the first time in history two captains were traded for each other at the deadline.
Heartbroken fans in Tampa Bay reacted the way normal people do: They were upset, angry, and betrayed. It’s tough to see your captain and most beloved player request a trade. It’s even tougher when he got his big chance in Tampa Bay, and has arguably the best player in Lightning history. The fans never had a chance to say goodbye to Marty, and perhaps that’s what hurt the most.
The story of Martin St. Louis is one that we are all familiar with. Undrafted because of his small size, Marty battled through the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks, followed by the AHL’s St. John’s Flames, before finally getting a chance in Calgary. In 69 games, Marty put up 4-18-22 over two seasons with the Flames.
Calgary exposed Marty in the 2000 Expansion Draft, but again Marty went unselected. At that point, the Flames bought out his contract, and Marty signed with Tampa Bay for the 2000-2001 season. Three years later, he was hoisting a Stanley Cup after leading the league in scoring. He would eventually win league and player MVP as well. Marty scored the overtime winner in Game Six of the Finals to force a Game Seven.
It was in the playoffs that Marty upped the ante. In 63 playoff games, Marty scored at over a point per game, putting up a line of 33-32-65 across five playoff runs, including 9-15-23 in the 23 games leading up to the 2004 Cup.
Marty should be lauded as a hero in Tampa Bay. Sure, the relationship could have ended on better terms, but the end of his time in Tampa Bay shouldn’t mar the 12 previous seasons where he bled Tampa Bay blue.
Marty should be welcomed back with open arms, a video tribute, and a standing ovation. The sad thing is, he likely won’t.