Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Martin St. Louis, Rangers in SC Finals While Lightning Fans Still Nurse Broken Hearts in TB

It’s genuinely hard for me to be completely happy for Martin St. Louis all the way.

And no, watching Marty play with Brad Richards again, like old times, isn’t quite cutting it.

The former Tampa Bay Lightning captain (for all of five months give or take), and 14-year Lightning veteran has done his fair share this post season to carry his new team, the New York Rangers, into the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, after jumping the Bolts’ ship on March 5 at the trade deadline to join the Original Six team at his request.

He even scored an OT winner, painting himself a hero in New Yorker’s eyes, against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 to put the Rangers up 3-1 in the series on May 25; one win away from clinching the Eastern Conference Championship and moving on to the Cup Finals. Of course, New York ultimately did that, but it took a Game 6 win last night to clinch it after the Habs rallied in Game 5 on May 27 to draw within a game in the series 3-2.

Who here didn’t see Marty hit that top-shelf game-winner in OT and not get a small case of 2004 déjà vu? Who here didn’t feel a small pang of loss, maybe even jealousy, that such contributions were reaped by a team not affiliated with Tampa Bay? A team with no lightning bolts on their sweaters.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

I liken it to a similar feeling, if not exactly, but in the neighborhood, down the street, within waving distance of this other feeling: It reminds me of when a relationship of many, many years suddenly ends because your significant other has met someone else and decided to end what you two had going on to pursue something she deemed better in someone else, only to marry that someone else, and seems to be genuinely happier and successful.That may be a bit melodramatic, I know, but all postseason long that feeling has been rattling in my gut while watching Marty play for the Rangers and it’s the closest thing I can compare it to, even if it’s nowhere near as personal as a real break-up, like I said, it is at least within waving distance from that feeling, even if that distance could be pretty far down the street.

It’s a muted version of that feeling, but still relatable.

Passion for a sports team could sometimes border on the affection we might harbor for a significant other on occasion. And I think Tampa Bay definitely had a deeply felt love for Martin St. Louis.

Whether or not he returned that affection is sort of up for debate now, isn’t it?

This is only the second time St. Louis has been in the SC Finals in his 16-year career in the NHL, the first being in 2004, of course, when the Bolts won their first and only Cup over the Calgary Flames. And at 38-years-old, you’d think, despite the hullabaloo over his trade, that as a true blue Lightning fan, I’d be happy to see Marty up against the ropes, one more time, and gunning for more glory as a SC champion. And yes, part of me does feel that way about it.

But another part of me feels that Marty is simply wearing the wrong jersey for all of that, and has been since March 5, and that all this potential glory is being reached and possibly achieved with the wrong stinking team.

Marty will be in the Hall of Fame one day, that much is written. And one more Stanley Cup, at his age, with an Original Six team like the Rangers (who haven’t seen the Cup Finals since 1994 when they last won it in historic fashion) surely won’t hurt, if it doesn’t outright make this Cup run legendary along with his career: A red, white, and blue cherry on top so to speak.

But how Bolts fans feel about Marty, I think, has forever been altered, and maybe, just maybe, our collective hearts will have healed enough by the time Marty’s career is settled and written in stone, for all of us fans to take measure of the man, the overall player, the legend, and not just the Lightning player he was – until he wasn’t.

I don’t know yet, it’s still too soon for me, believe it or not, and I’m still nursing something of a broken heart about the trade. A bit of the rejected heart, really.

I’d like to think I’d be big enough on the day to see things that way, but it’s too early to say. I’m shooting for that feel-good ending though, regardless.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, I’m still neighbors with a very sad hockey fan who understands that sometimes the trade of a beloved player isn’t so far removed from being traded yourself by a loved one for another player in life.I’m still neighbors with that idea and we wave to each other from time to time in understanding.

Maybe one day, we in Tampa Bay will all move on from that idea, and leave the past in the past.

Like I said, that’s what I’m shooting for, the feel-good ending; but with every great-heartbreak you have a great amount of things to process. I have a feeling that maybe I’m not the only Lightning fan in Tampa Bay who is still processing things since Marty’s exit from the team, especially in the wake of St. Louis playing for another Cup…in the wrong stinking jersey.

This article, if not a bit melodramatic, is my way of waving to all of you, collectively, in understanding: To those of you still struggling with watching the heart of the Tampa Bay Lightning playing with another team like its normal, like nothing’s wrong: I’m waving to you, you’re not alone. We’re just down the street from each other, really.

And yes, it is hard.  Yes, it does sometimes take longer than you expected or wanted it to.  But time, good company, and good hockey cures all the woes of the rejected fan base’s broken heart.  And we got plenty of each on all of our horizons.

Tags: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Martin St Louis Tampa Bay Lightning

  • bluejays79

    I don’t understand some of the fans that are still heart broken over his departure. I’ve been idolizing Marty for most of my life. I was a small hockey player myself, I would sit down at 14-15 years old watch a whole game, take not of how he got things done, and try to emulate his play on the ice. I feel like most of the fans who are broken hearted are either new fans(after Stanley Cup) or they weren’t here for much before this year.

    I don’t blame Marty for asking to be traded, between 2006 and when Vinik came along Marty was treated like S@$#, he went through like 20 Goaltenders, probably 40-50 different teammates, they drafted like crap, they signed UFA that were passed their primes. Just a whole lot of sucking IMHO. Imagine going through that for 8 years or so, NOW that he is the veteran that he is, he deserves to go where ever he wants to go. After thriving with so little supporting cast for many years, something accolades just isn’t enough. We owed him for that, he brought us our only Stanley cup.

    To be honest, I hated to see Marty go, but I’m glad we got 2 very good picks in return (who will most likely be part of our ‘Core’ of players moving forward. Having a ‘Core’ is how teams become contenders every year. It was the Boston Bruins way, the Detroit Redwings way, the La Kings way, Chicago blackhawks way and so… Marty wasn’t part of that ‘core’ 2-3-5 years So why lose him for nothing when we can get 2 very good picks? Why lose him to retirement, when we can maybe swap the 2 picks for a franchise top Dmen?

    I understand why some people don’t root for Marty. I know how Marty felt when he wanted out, I asked to be traded before, Family always comes first in these situations.

    The only thing I don’t like is his interviews. It feels like he keeps taking shots at the Lightning Organization, which is dumb, uncalled for and shouldn’t happen.

  • Kara

    I think you’ve done an wonderful job here in putting the raw feelings of fans into words. And like most, I gather, the biggest issue is not with him leaving, it’s when and how he left.
    The idea of St. Louis winning another cup is special and his supporters would want nothing better for him. He deserves it, with his perseverance, his abilities and his steadfastness he’s displayed over the years. And honestly, whether he does it with the Lightning or another team is fine also. Just shows his character and adaptability to come through and prove that he’s good anywhere, not just in Tampa Bay.
    With that said, WHY did he take over a team and lead them, before and during Stamkos’ injury, with a passion and determination that inspired them all to push through the little things and make one heck of a push towards post season? They played great, stayed near the top of the division and never let any loss take hold and drag them into a streak. Even with how well all the rookies, the veterans, the goalie and even the coach did this season, you can’t make me believe that St. Louis didn’t have a big hand in that as well.
    And then, after the so called drama of the Olympics, instead of remaining loyal to his teammates (and fans) and finish what they all started, and started well, he abandons them for another team. And he not only leaves them hanging less than two months from the end, he leaves suddenly so he can play with his new team that very evening, with very little said or explained to anyone.
    And whether more come out on this or not, for now all it says is, you guys aren’t good enough and I want those that are. And just the little bit I’ve heard come from him since then, is that it supports this.
    So, those that can just forgive and forget, fine – I’m happy for you. But I can’t just do it like you can. I don’t hate him and I don’t wish anything to happen to him, other than I hope he doesn’t win the cup…this year.
    Next season is a brand new game and the Lightning will be looking to get back into the playoffs with those members of the team that want to be here. The Rangers will just be another team to beat – nothing more, nothing less.

    • James Blevins

      Thank you, Kara. I agree with you, it’s not just that he left, it’s how he left, and how obvious, at least to him and probably NY fans now that the Rangers are in the SC Finals, it has worked out to his benefit. Meanwhile, the Lightning was without his leadership or his playoff pedigree and was bounced out of the running in four straight games. All of that mixed with his method of exit; his overall zombie-like, emotionless expression while trying to explain why this had to happen for him and his family, and a seemingly “paint-by-numbers” exit statement, just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. And no, you don’t have to be a recent fan to feel this. I’ve personally been a fan of the Lightning since 1995. It doesn’t matter if you were there when the Bolts made their first playoff appearance or just before they made this recent one, it doesn’t take long as a Bolts’ fan to feel the impact that Marty held for this franchise. The writing is on the Forum walls, so to speak. And leaving how he did, will leave a lasting mark, which is until the Bolts have continued success without him (which I believe they will). If he had waited till the off-season, I really believe this bitter pill would have gone down better. His number will hang in the rafters one day (deservedly so), but for those of us who were there for Marty’s exit it will always be a bittersweet, mixed sets of feelings on how we feel about the old heart-of-the-Lightning player he used to be for Tampa Bay. His glories and role will be remembered, but that exit, it occupies space in those rafters, right next to those accomplishments, if not equal space, certainly enough to be noticed. And I believe, that exit will rest in a lot of Lightning fans hearts for a lot longer. And if it doesn’t, well, maybe you’re not doing the whole “Lightning fan” thing right. Or, maybe, it’s just a case of “he said/he said” thing. I notice a divide in fans’ reactions to the Marty exit simply being whether or not you’re a Steve Yzerman supporter or not. Typically, if you’re supporter of Yzerman, you see Marty’s exit as a betrayal. If you’re a Yzerman dissenter, then you tend to take Marty’s exit as a “finally” moment, and a “he got away from the monster’s clutches” moment. I don’t know if either end is true, only the participants know. Was it: petulant St. Louis or cold, calculating Yzerman who favors youth over experience? Tough one to tie down. But the truth tends to be in the pudding, I think. Youth is ruling the day in Tampa Bay as of now, with much success, and Marty still looks like a zombie when trying to seem genuine about his time in TB. I still nurse a broken heart, but I also will eventually let go, but it doesn’t mean I can’t write a hundred articles about the delicate wound left as I move on. That’s what writers do, and when writers happen to be hockey fans, well, they tend to write about the loss of someone dear to them; zombie-like or not, Marty was special to my experience as a Lightning fan, as I think he was to lots of fans, and his exit left a mark – just as it should have.