Tampa Bay Lightning Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik announced today that the team will retire the number 26 worn by former captain Martin St. Louis in a ceremony prior to their game with the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 13, 2017.
St. Louis, the team’s all-time leading scorer, retired following the 2014-15 season with the New York Rangers. He played in 972 games over 13 season with the Lightning, during which he scored 365 goals along with 588 assists and was a key contributor to the 2004 Stanley Cup winning team.
This will be the first jersey number retired by the team who began play in the NHL in 1992. The number 99 is retired league-wide in honor of Wayne Gretzky.
Mr. Vinik said. “This is a very proud moment. Martin St. Louis had a long, historic career here. One of the greatest players, if not the greatest in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning.” Addressing any hard feelings that might still exist from the controversial circumstances surrounding the way his career came to an end in Tampa Bay, he said, “I have no doubt that Marty is going to be warmly embraced by all of our fans. I think when we look at Marty St. Louis’s career, what he did for the Tampa Bay Lightning, what he did for this community. This is one of the best athletes in the history of Tampa Bay sports. He deserves to be honored with his number retired and I have no doubt our fans will step up and give him the love that he deserves.”
The significance of the date chosen for this ceremony is directly related to the fact that former Lightning head coach John Tortorella is the head coach of the Blue Jackets, the Lightning’s opponent that night.
In regard to honoring other former players in the future, specifically Vinny Lecavalier, Mr. Vinik said, “There’s a process involved here, as we evaluate some of our retired players. What they’ve accomplished in the league, what they’ve accomplished here over a long period of time. Think about what Vinny has accomplished. It’s very similar to what Marty has. We’re taking a step at a time. We’re honoring Marty on January 13th in retiring his number and we’ll utilize that same process to evaluate Vinny.”
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