Word has it, at least in my head, that Yzerman left Marty off the trip to Sochi because Steve wants Marty to get a rest for the second half playoff push that's coming...and even more so for the deep seed playoff run that may well come later. Sometimes it burns in the heart with emotion the way lack of oxygen can burn in the legs when someone tells you to slow down and take a breadth and pace yourself; but sometimes even the heart like the muscles in your legs needs a breather. The NHL season is so much longer than we fans can ever appreciate. The toughest games will be played after Sochi; games will be grittier, harder. Olympic years are quirky and in the past we've seen the teams as high as the number two spot plummet right out of a playoff spot. The toughest games of the regular season have yet to be played. Right now when teams have players that sprain a knee, bend an ankle, or jam a finger they sit'em out day to day and work the healthy scratches into games. After Sochi the day to day rotation will start to dwindle; especially for teams sitting two to eight points in either direction of the last seed. Likewise we will see more double shifting. As a result teams will either rise in the standings like an Atlas IV rocket, or plummet like a meteor right out of contention.
Marty is the core of this team. He is the captain. He's going to have to be better in June than he will be in February to stake his name on the property of Lord Stanley again. If I'm Marty, if I want to give my competitive spirit the drive to feed off of that I will need when my team is tied in the second overtime of game seven, I allow myself to know that I would give, that I did give, a once in a lifetime chance at a gold medal for my great country to touch Lord Stanley's Cup as a champion at least one more time in my professional playing career. To earn to any name the legendary status as a two time champion of the hardest accomplishment in all of sports, including a Canadian Olympic gold medal, sacrifice of tremendous amounts must be absorbed. Sacrifice can come as pains filled with disappointment, dejection, apathy, anger; simply list the things that require grit to persevere through and you will find where sacrifice and fuel can be found. To achieve that milestone again, to be the only Lightning member with his name etched twice on the cup next to a bolt of raw charge; to become the bridge, the heart, that ushered this franchise, my franchise, from one Stanley Cup team, through the dregs and years of terrible ownership, seeing friends leave, working like mad through disappointing seasons and the dramas and hardships of life; and to pass that cup, that joy, that emotion, of championship on to the next generation of our franchise. To be the only remaining ’04 Lightning Stanley Cup holder of the team and to have the chance to usher the Cup on into the future of the franchise is inspiring, its fuel. It’s the only thing that matters when you are a 20 year old rookie or 40 year old veteran; the Stanley Cup is why you play hockey; medals can serve merely as a distraction. This is a chance to pass on the experience Andreychuk captained for the franchise. Martin St. Louis is this inspiring team’s captain; and as sure as there will always be adversity and pain of the body, mind, and heart for each of us, there’s only one person to carry this team to magical places and it’s Martin St. Louis.
If I'm Marty, if I'm in his head, the only motivation I need is the thought of drinking my own blood, sweat, and tears right out of Lord Stanley's cup.
As a Tampa Bay fan, I am miffed that St. Louis was somehow left off the Canadian roster. I thought for sure he was a lock. No one was more productive in last year’s season. Many who don't know Marty like we do though may say that last season's shortened length benefited St. Louis's end of the year production stats more so than any other player's in the league; in a longer season he may not have been able to keep pace they argue. Don't get me wrong, I don’t believe this for one second. I know the heart that exists in 26 - a number that will never be worn again by any other name in this re-rising franchise's history and lore - and that heart prevails through every adversity I have ever seen it faced with and so I know St. Louis's numbers are no anomaly and he would only have increased the pace last year if given more games. Every tired leg lift in July is a stride in April. Through the burn and into the stinging numb of needles against the thighs on the biggest back check grind of an entire life in professional hockey while in game seven second overtime: there is heart that can only be fueled and fed by sacrifices that came before that moment.
I am a fanatic of the Tampa Bay Lightning to which there is no comparison; and in my heart I know that Marty will be better in May than he was in November and December when he put my team on his shoulders and, like Jesus in the poem on my grandfather's wall, carried this young team to one of the best records league wide in December, and the very best record in this franchise's history. Marty carried this franchise, both its current young crop of players and every team this franchise has ever known, to the best December hockey this city has ever seen; but his lifting of this franchise continues ever longer into the battle with body, mind, and opponent. The real grind hasn't started yet; and because of Marty St. Louis’s presence here I believe. I am the thunder and I’m all in.
This team is having a story book season. Truly. A novel can already be written about this team and its season. Disney can already make it a movie; and Marty is in charge of captaining this ship to its ending. It has all the elements. Excitement in energetic youth coming of age, drama of a young but already arrived super star overcoming the peril of tremendous adversity, a bright young goalie getting the first chance at being thee guy, a veteran who's love for the game is only outweighed by the sheer tenacity of his heart and ability to lift his team, and a coach who only ten years ago was filing legal briefs. I just decided this is the story I'm going to write. Sincerely. I'm going to document the true story of this team because I think it's incredibly moving and inspiring. And I believe, as the biggest fan this franchise has even know, that Marty is going to lead this team to an ending worth telling.
This snub, wait, stop. It's not a snub and I wish we would stop using that vernacular so I'll rephrase immediately. This sacrifice Marty has been dealt, only adds to the lore and mystique of the legendary career of this future first up first in hall of famer. Marty St. Louis will be defined in many ways when he decides to retire in ten years; Sochi will not define him. What happens after Sochi is when that dictionary will be written and Martin St. Louis will be defined.