As he took the podium in the bowels of Amalie Arena a day before he’s scheduled to be the first player in Tampa Bay Lightning history to have his jersey number retired, Marty St. Louis wanted to make one thing clear to the assembled media.
“I’m not making a comeback,” St. Louis said with a smile and a chuckle, drawing a hearty laugh from the room.
He might not be making a comeback, but St. Louis showed that he’s got a sense of humor, but also admitted that a lot of emotions would come flooding back once the ceremony starts at 6:30 pm on Friday night. And a lot of nervousness, too.
“I’m definitely nervous. A lot of emotions are gonna come when it all happens,” said St. Louis. “A lot of people are traveling for this, close people of mine that mean a lot to me. And obviously, as I go through the experience tomorrow, you think about them, you talk about them. Some of the players, coaches, family, and so it’s a special day. I’ve practiced my speech in front of three or four people. I’ve gotta execute in front of 19,000 people watching. There’s definitely a nervousness. Nobody prepares you for these things, you just do the best you can and that’s what I keep reminding myself.”
By this time, you all know the laundry list of St. Louis’s accomplishments. The 1,033 points, 953 of which happened in a Lightning jersey. The 90 career playoff points. The Hart Trophy. The three Lady Byng Trophies. The two Art Ross Trophies. The Pearson Award. The six All-Star game appearances. The numerous clutch performances, most notably in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. But when asked about the first memory he’d talk about with his grandchildren when he’s an old man, only one came to mind.
“If I picture myself talking to my grandkids, I’d have to talk about the Stanley Cup,” St. Louis said. “I’m hoping one day I can watch the Stanley Cup Final with my grandkids. Hopefully they ask questions about it and I’ll be able to tell them my story.”
Typically when you mention the name Marty St. Louis to a Lightning fan, there’s a good chance that the first thing they’ll think about is his famous goal in double overtime of Game 6 in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final that forced Game 7 back in Tampa. But as joyous of a feeling as it was, St. Louis said he’ll never forget the reality check the Lightning got when the plane landed in Tampa.
“The Cup’s in the building, they’re just ready for it to come out. I scored, and we celebrated like we won (the Cup), pretty much,” said St. Louis. “You’re on such a high until you land. Then you land the next day and realize you’ve done nothing yet. You actually have to go validate. And eventually we did. What a ride.”
Having grown up near Montreal, St. Louis is familiar with watching a Canadiens team that has such a rich history filled with numerous players that have had their jersey numbers retired. He admitted that owning the distinction of being the first Lightning player to have his jersey retired is an incredible honor that he doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s an honor. Obviously growing up in Montreal and seeing all the legends, even before my time, but at some point in time there was a first number that went up there. They built their own history and legacy, and I think this organization is doing that,” said St. Louis in reference to the Lightning. “To me, to be the first is so flattering and it’s such an honor. This organization is trying to build its own history and its done a great job so far. And I’m glad to be part of it.”
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