I would like to preface this piece by saying that I am not here to defend the manner in which Martin St. Louis left Tampa Bay or some of the things he has said or has failed to say to the media since his departure. This isn't about how loyal he was to the fans here in Tampa Bay.
There are absolutely still some bitter feelings toward the man. But in his time in a Tampa Bay Lightning sweater - and even dating back to his days playing hockey with his dad in Laval, Quebec - Martin St. Louis' story has been one of determination and love for the game. Told throughout in his life that he would not make it in the NHL because of his size - St. Louis is only 5'8" - he set out to prove those people wrong. And he did it in dramatic fashion while wearing a lightning bolt on the crest of his sweater.
As an unrestricted free agent, Marty fought for a chance to make it into the NHL, despite an outstanding career at the University of Vermont, where some of his records still stand today. The Calgary Flames took the first chance on him in 1998, but after bouncing between the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, playing a mere 69 NHL games over two seasons, he was bought out.
Marty had to prove himself to NHL teams all over again. Then, in the summer of 2000, a general manager in Tampa Bay, Rick Dudley, signed him to a deal that would pay dividends in a big way. Since that fateful day 14 years ago, some incredible memories have been made.
He helped the Lightning win its first ever playoff series on April 20, 2003 with a goal in triple overtime of Game 6 during the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Washington Capitals:
Then, on June 7, 2004, the dream was realized. St. Louis, aided by Ruslan Fedotenko's two-goal performance in Game 7, lifted Lord Stanley's chalice.
More recently, Marty tied the franchise record for goals in a game with four - a record that has been held by Chris Kontos since the Lightning's very first NHL game on October 7, 1992. This happened January 18, 2014 against the San Jose Sharks.
There is no question that the way Marty ended his 14-year career as a Bolt was...questionable, to say the least. Marty was my favorite player to ever put on the Lightning sweater, so I still have trouble coming to terms with how it all played out. But, regardless of how you may feel about him, it is absolutely no reason to forget the memories he provided while wearing #26 in Tampa Bay.
(Other numbers to wear #26 for the Lightning: Matt Harvey, Chris LiPuma, Jay Wells, Jason Bonsignore, Mike Sillinger)