(Photograph by tildus_37)
" I want to be traded."
This is the last thing that any hockey fanbase wants to hear about. It's the last thing that any general manager or team owner wants to hear.
Those were the words that were uttered and reinforced by former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis. A lot people speculate as per what the true reason was, whether it was the Olympic snub that broke the straw on the camel's back or it was family matters that really forced the issue. I have heard both sides of the argument. I have seen all viewpoints on what had happened and what could have happened to prevent this trade. Fans believe that he could have waited until the offseason to make the move since the Bolts are in the playoff hunt, other fans believe that family comes first and without question that family is a priority. You also had fans, such as myself that in a way felt that Marty provided an air of toxicity in the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room because of the request to be traded, and nevertheless would make things very uncomfortable for all.
Including our young players that witness all conflicts, all emotions, everything that happens behind those closed doors.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here are my thoughts on this ongoing saga. I wanted to add as well that whatever I am about to say, some of you will not like it and disagree. I wanted to let it be known that I wholeheartedly respect your opinion and I ask that mine be respected in return.
That being said, let's get this started.
Martin St. Louis is one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player in my opinion, to put on a Tampa Bay Lightning sweater. When the rumors that he wanted a trade came to light, at first I was devastated. I hoped to the bottom of my heart that the rumors were not true. The rumors started coming to light after Team Canada had won gold. I was thinking to myself, "would Marty really want to leave?" I left it alone and hoped that it would not fester, but alas, it did.
When Marty was asked about the trade rumors, he did not answer any questions or had no desire to squash the rumors. That is when I felt more and more that a trade was a possibility. The final drop that tipped the cup over came after a loss in which the Bolts had blown a lead 4-2 vs. St. Louis. He refused to address the media, picking up his equipment and walking out of the locker room before the reporters were probably able to ask, "what now?"
The following day Martin St. Louis, captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the mighty skilled player that scored that goal in double overtime to force Game 7 in Tampa Bay, and giving a town in sunny Florida a chance to win Lord Stanley's Holy Grail....was traded.
At first I was numb. I felt a huge array of emotions and, honestly, I have never felt the entire spectrum of human emotion in less than 60 seconds until that day. As soon as I get home from work, I find out that Marty had left a letter for the fans, which in he felt he needed to say his goodbye before he left. Then came the press conferences, the constant media coverage. The constant struggling of emotions between sadness, rage, mourning, happiness, apathy was, and still is chaotic for me. I went to the game following Marty's departure and I must admit that it was not the same. Marty was no longer there. Marty was no longer there to balance the puck on his famed yellow Easton stick, he was no longer there to be on the glass in front of me. He was no longer there to be the mighty warrior that we all had hoped to be. Instead, I saw a lot of sorrowful, hurt and angry fans. Fans who had out of anger defaced their jerseys. Fans who no longer viewed Marty as the perfect entity that embodied the strength, vitality, endurance and renewed spark that is the Tampa Bay Lightning. That image is no longer here. What is left is a tainted memory of a player who the fans felt and still feel had turned his back on and betrayed the players, the fans, the organization, the city, the community who needed him the most.
Marty, I hope that somewhere, whether in the locker room or at your home in Greenwich, CT, or on the road that this note reaches you well. I wanted to not say goodbye, but a "see you later."
Martin, you were the first player to sign my artwork, you were the first player who I felt that taught me the ability to learn this beautiful game and read it. You were the first player that I was able to take the first perfect slapshot for. When I moved to Raleigh, NC after a devastating loss I would watch you and I would be inspired. Inspired to keep living life, to rise against all odds and to be a better person and not only to myself but to the people surrounding me.You kept me hanging in there even when the going was very tough.
I wanted to, and still hope to be like you someday. That little guy that proves everyone wrong and becomes a legend in the process. I miss you so much, I love you so much and I hope that one day to see your number hang in the rafters, to see you be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
And even though you wear another jersey, another team's colors; please let your mind and heart be still. You, Martin, are human too. Remember that. No matter what path you choose, whether we agree or disagree please remember that you have my full support and I wish you well and much success. You as a husband, as a father, as a family man did what you needed to do. The wounds will heal over time. The anger will subside but everything that you have done for this organization will stay written in stone always. Never forget that.
And I wholeheartedly thank you, Martin St. Louis. Thank you.