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.

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

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