The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they will be retiring Martin St. Louis' Number-26. Scheduled for January 13th, the ceremony will mark the return of a player who defined what it meant to be a Bolt for so long. While his departure from the team is marked with controversy, the fact remains that Marty is and was the best of the best in Lightning blue. While people can debate the timing of the honor, there is no denying that it is well deserved.
I wrote the following passage when Marty retired, and I want to share it again today:
When you sit back and think about the Lightning franchise as a whole, it's hard to avoid using the word 'underdog' to describe it. Hockey can't work in Florida, can it? Northerners laughed at the idea. Living in Edmonton, I can't count the number of times I've been told that the Lightning should be relocated. People still can't believe that hockey is surviving and thriving in such a warm, beautiful place.
And, yet, it does.
This Lightning team is thriving in the face of all odds. The doubters are reevaluating, as they've seen this group win a Stanley Cup and make it to a second Final appearance. The building is full nearly every night, and people are passionate about wearing Bolts blue. The odds said that a sunbelt team could never achieve so much success. The Tampa Bay Lightning defied expectations as they forged the growth of a truly wonderful franchise.
Now, here's the thing: Everything I just said about the Lightning can be said about Marty St. Louis, too. He was too small. He wasn't good enough. He didn't have what it takes to be an NHL player. Just like people doubted the Lightning, people essentially wrote off Marty St. Louis. In the face of all those doubts, though, a young player turned into one of the league's brightest stars. He didn't just stick around in the NHL like, say, the Arizona Coyotes; rather, he thrived like the Tampa Bay Lightning. Few gave Marty even a chance to succeed, just like many expected the Lightning to fail.
In short, Marty St. Louis defined everything Lightning. He was, for all intents and purposes, the 'mascot' for the team and its fans. You and I could relate our beloved team to Number-26 on the ice. His character was the team's character. His voice was the team's voice. It was a unique and incredible relationship.That about sums it up. Congrats on a wonderful career, Marty. Your jersey belongs up there.
As always, thanks for reading.