Martin St. Louis: An open letter begging you to shut the hell up already and play hockey

Bruce Bennett

Marty, man, you're killing me here.

Dear Marty:

It's been almost three months since you decided you were going to take your ball and go play somewhere else. Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman honored your sudden, petulant, and selfish request to be traded and sent you to the only place you were willing to go -- the New York Rangers. This team did that for you, even going against their own best short-term interests.

Since that time, your media appearances, your interviews, your quotes -- of which there have been many -- they've been nothing but a series of knife twists and salt poured on what are still very open wounds for many Tampa Bay Lightning fans.

Now, Marty, before you cast aside this letter as one written by a heartbroken fan, emotionally responding to a personal decision you made, consider my initial comments following your request for a trade:

Martinsstlouisnotabetrayal

Since that time, you've been on a whirlwind tour dragging Tampa Bay through the mud, however subtly and indirectly. You started off with this gut punch on NHL.com:

"It's a fresh wound right now. I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye," St. Louis said. "I owe a lot to the fans. The same reason why they fell in love with me many years ago I think is the same reason why they probably understand what I'm all about. I think I'm a character guy. I know this is hard for them. I didn't take this decision lightly, but I knew it was the right one."

That seems harmless enough, right?

It's not, though. Yes, it's a personal and private decision you made for yourself. Why not keep it that way? Instead, you're making this about you and only you, (I didn't ... I owe ... I think ... I'm about ... I'm ... I know ... I didn't ... I knew ...) and not considering the thousands of other lives affected. It's a fresh wound for them, too. They didn't get a chance to say goodbye either.

When you were asked why leave the Lightning for the Rangers when both teams are poised for a playoff run?, you had no answer. "It's a business" you said. "I haven't had time to collect my thoughts", you said.

Later that day, after your debut under the bright lights as a Blueshirt, you echoed earlier statements about how you "grew up as a player" in Tampa Bay. But did you grow up as a person? Have you not yet learned that words and actions can be harmful?

We can even give you a pass for some of these remarks -- New York is, after all, a big market and Tampa Bay is not. That's a true statement. The value of a big market over a small one for an individual player is another matter entirely, but one I won't argue with you over. You wanted to play in New York. Fine.

So why are we still hearing about it months later?

Let it go man. Let it go. When you say "Nothing better than playoffs in a big market" what we hear is "Tampa sucks and I'm glad I'm out". That may be irrational but so is being a fan in the first place. Just stop. You're not helping anyone or anything by saying things like that.

As the Lightning were swept out of the first round by the Montreal Canadiens and the Rangers advanced, you still hadn't learned:

"For me, what stood out is how the Rangers played before I got here," St. Louis said Monday in Montreal. "When I first got here the first couple weeks, I'm like, this team plays like they're in the playoffs right now. . . . It was very encouraging for me knowing that once I got going, this was going to be a good opportunity, because this team is built for playoff hockey."

Irrational fandom be damned, it doesn't take much to read between the lines there, Marty. Was Tampa not playing like they were in the playoffs, scrapping and clawing to edge out Montreal for home ice advantage in the first round? Did Tampa not have a good opportunity? Was Tampa not built for playoff hockey?

And what's been so bad for five years that suddenly got worse? This isn't even the first time you've wanted out of Tampa Bay and into New York.

Even now, after getting what you want and in the midst of a captivating run to the Stanley Cup Final, can't you learn to just shut up already?

Apparently not.

Oh, and there's also this little dagger, in the Tampa Bay Times:

It's the first time either St. Louis or Richards have made the finals since Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004, and fittingly the 10-year anniversary is next weekend. St. Louis, 38, who drew criticism for requesting a trade to New York, and dealt with the unexpected loss of his mother, France, three weeks ago, took time to reflect Thursday night.

"This is the reason why I came here," St. Louis said outside the team's dressing room. " This is what I thought about when I came here. I thought that this group had the key element for this kind of experience, I thought I could add something, and it's tough to leave a team that you've been there for 13, 14 years, but it makes everything right, right now."

We understand the personal tragedy of losing your mother. We could have mourned with you. There could have been an outpouring of love and support from Tampa Bay that you'd never experienced before, even after you left. But the bitterness, the spite, the hate even -- these are natural human responses to rejection, just as grief is a natural human response to loss.

What's worse than the rejection, however, is the carelessness. What you say isn't nearly as hurtful as the apparent lack of regard you have for the place you called home and the fans who supported you for 14 years. You know we're still listening and watching, right? Just because Tampa is a small market doesn't mean people aren't still paying attention to what you say and do.

You've made it next to impossible to continue defending you. I can't be a Martin St. Louis apologist any more.

And if I can't do that -- as someone who's given you miles of slack and more benefits of doubt than even you deserve -- what does that mean for your legacy, as a person and as a player?

If getting to the Final "makes everything right" .. then why do we still feel so wronged?

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