On Friday night before their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay retired superstar Martin St. Louis‘ No. 26, permanently cementing him into Lightning lore.
Players, coaches and staff from both teams were in attendance for over an hour before puck drop to honour the 41-year-old.
Out on the ice sat the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Stanley Cup, all awards St. Louis amassed over his career with the Lightning.
In an eye-watering speech, St. Louis thanked all those around him who helped him become a star, and the one, most important person who could not be in attendance.
“There’s one person who could not be here tonight who I wish could be here more than anything: My mom,” said St. Louis. “I know she is here with us tonight. She always said, ‘Show them, Marty. Show them.’ Well, mom, I think I did.”
He certainly did.
St. Louis racked up 1,033 points (391 goals, 642 assists) over the course of 1,134 games spread across 15 seasons. He is currently Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in points (953), assists (588), power-play points (300), shorthanded goals (28), shorthanded points (44), game-winning goals (64), and overtime goals (10).
Current captain of the Lightning Steven Stamkos said it best: “He was, he still is and he forever will be the heart and soul of this organization.”
It was Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella who took the podium first, the same man who coached St. Louis and the Lightning to their only Stanley Cup back in 2004.
“This is the end for him, as far as his number being retired,” Tortorella said. “But he will never leave the game. It’s such a great story.”
Such a great story indeed. His career was one that at one point was thought never to be possible. He went undrafted with few teams willing to take a chance on the small winger officially listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds.
But that wasn’t going to stop him.
“He had a chip on his shoulder all the way to his ankles,” said Tortorella.
It was that chip that motivated him to become the living legend that he is today, a legend that will motivate others in the years ahead.
“Your number in the rafters should be an inspiration for people for generations to come,” said Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL.