After two seasons have come and gone, it’s about time for Tampa Bay Lightning fans to retire their grudge against former captain Martin St. Louis.
This marks the first time in franchise history that a jersey will hang high in the rafters of the Amalie Arena. As you can imagine, there are a plethora of Tampa Bay Lightning fans who are excited to see one of their favorite players of all-time have their number retired. At the same time, there are many who are far less enthusiastic.
Martin St. Louis caused a fracture among Tampa Bay Lightning fans back on March 5, 2014, when Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman elected to grant St. Louis’ his trade request. The trade resulted in Marty St. Louis heading to the New York Rangers and Rangers captain Ryan Callahan making his way to the Bolts nation along with a first round draft pick and a conditional second round draft pick.
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This is where things got decidedly ugly. There are some Tampa Bay Lightning fans who took Marty at his word. Martin St. Louis explained to the world that his decision to leave the Lightning was personal and had a great deal to do with his family.
Unfortunately, there are some who only see what they are told to see. There were many members of the media who thrive off stirring the pot and making things out to be much more than they are. Some people believe that Marty’s decision to leave was solely based on the fact he was snubbed by his own General Manager and left off Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
While there is a great possibility there is some truth to the matter, there are only two to three people who truly know what went down behind those dreaded closed doors. Here, we find ourselves a full two seasons later and none of those aforementioned people have elected to make those discussions public.
The truth of the matter is, we may never know 100 percent what happened behind those closed doors. All we have to go on is what we were told. In our own personal opinion, we choose to believe Martin St. Louis when he said the move was based on his desire to be in closer proximity to his family.
Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Martin St. Louis knows exactly how much his family means to him. After all, family is the one thing that should come before all else in life. Why wouldn’t a son want to be closer to their mother and father?
Unfortunately, it seems as if Martin St. Louis knew something the rest of the world did not. On May 8, 2014, just over two months to the day of Marty being traded to the New York Rangers, his mother France St. Louis would tragically pass away at the age of 63 from a heart attack.
In an essay for The Players’ Tribune, St. Louis referred to the phone call he received while still in the air traveling with his team, was “the worst phone call he ever received.” Immediately after landing, St. Louis would head home to be with his family while the team continued to make their way through the postseason.
Sure, the Rangers needed a player like St. Louis by their side, but at the end of the day, his family needed him even more during this debilitating time in their lives.
Think about it from this perspective…had Martin St. Louis not made the hard decision to leave behind the team in which he had spent 13 seasons and given his everything to for a majority of his playing career, he may not have had the extra time he had with his mother. His children would have missed out on some of their last opportunities to be with their grandmother.
As the old saying goes, things happen for a reason. Sometimes, it is not our business to know what those reasons ultimately are, but to respect the fact they happened and move forward with our lives.
Just for a single moment in time, cast aside the anger and frustration you may or may not have against Martin St. Louis and take a look at some of the things he did while he was here in the Bolts Nation. The first and foremost is without Marty’s help, there is a very good chance the Tampa Bay Lightning may not have won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
As you can see below, it was Marty’s goal in Double Overtime of Game 6 against the Calgary Flames that sent the series back to Tampa Bay and allowed the Lightning one more chance at holding the Stanley Cup high above their heads.
Just one game later, Marty St. Louis’ presence would be known in the final minute of the game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the reason one would want; however, it turned out to be incredibly beneficial for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Martin St. Louis found himself drilled into the boards by Andrew Ference. Not only would he be spun around by the hit, but Marty would catch Ference’s stick to the face causing a large cut dripping with blood in the final minute of Game 7.
When all was said and done, the Tampa Bay Lightning would spend the final minute of the game on the Power Play. Well…at least that’s what they though. Just about 39 seconds into the penalty, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk would be sent to the penalty box. Now, the Lightning found themselves in a four-on-four situation.
Despite the four-on-four situation in front of them, the Bolts still held the advantage here. They were headed into the final 22 seconds of the game with a 2-1 lead over the Flames. When the final buzzer sounded, it would be the Tampa Bay Lightning who emerged victoriously.
Could this event have occurred had it not been for Martin St. Louis’ presence on the team? This is something we will never know. The one thing we do know is the team was much better off with his presence on the ice.
While winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 may go down as one of the best and most memorable contributions St. Louis made to Lightning Hockey, it certainly wasn’t the only one.
After making the announcement of his number being retired, the Tampa Bay Lightning posted a video to their Twitter account highlighting the many accomplishments of Martin St. Louis as a member of the Bolts.
As you can see, there are many reasons why a good majority of Tampa Bay Lightning fans still hold a space in their hearts for their former captain.
While there are many who do not agree with Marty’s decision to leave, the manner in which he left, or the events that transpired after the event, the simple fact of the matter is it has been two whole seasons since the event that shocked the world took place. It’s time to put down the pitchforks and move on.
Could an argument be made that former Lightning captains Dave Andreychuk or Vincent Lecavalier should have been the first to have their jerseys hanging from the rafters of Amalie Arena? Sure. However, at the end of the day, the Lightning organization has made their decision and this is the one they made.
Unfortunately, no matter what people may say and what facts and stats may be brought to the table, there are still those who simply cannot shed their anger and ill will towards Martin St. Louis. At the end of the day, we are not asking for you to forget those things that cause you to bear such hatred and anger.
While there is a large portion of us that would like to ask you to forgive St. Louis for the decisions he made that caused you this anger, we’re pretty sure what kind of response we’d get from that one. We’ve heard just about every manner of nastiness you can imagine.
At the same time, there is one thing we will ask of each and every one of you. If you are one of the many people who still hold some manner of ill will against Martin St. Louis, if only for one night, please set aside the anger the flows from deep inside.
If you cannot find it in your hearts to forgive him, at least respect him for the contributions he has made to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization over the course of his career. Please, do not boo, do not bring derogatory signs with you to the game.
The only thing this will accomplish is bringing down the Lightning organization in front of the entire NHL. Those of us who have been in this for the long haul know how much flack the Tampa teams receive for their many “fair weather” fans. Do we want to prove them right or prove we can set aside our differences and come together as one? We’re hoping for the latter.
Simply sit or stand in silence and allow Martin St. Louis to have his final moment in the spotlight and allow the many who still hold a place in their hearts for the former heart and soul of the Tampa Bay Lightning to share in his night and say one final farewell to one of the all-time greatest players in the game.
There is no denying it will be an emotional night on January 13th. One of the things we do know for sure is we will be at the game that night and we will be wearing our St. Louis jersey. No matter which side of this ugly “divorce” you stand on, we would only hope that for one night, we can come together as a fanbase and pay due respect to one of the best players to ever wear a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey.