Today Tampa Bay Lightning fans let out a vast sigh of relief as Martin St. Louis signed a four-year contract, continuing his service with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
St. Louis' last year under contract had the potential to be rather heart-breaking for fans like me, losing familiar faces to other teams, other loyalties, and other jerseys (thought perhaps I take this a bit personally).
But it's excellent news, recalling St. Louis' remarks earlier this summer (prior to having named a general manager and coach), when it was reported that St. Louis wanted to be a part of a winning team, meaning that if Tampa wasn't winning, Marty wasn't a part of Tampa. And it makes sense. Speculation says that a player reaching the end of his career wants to be on a winning team. You can't fault him for that.
Really though, what would Tampa Bay be without Marty St. Louis? I'm reminded of a story told by a fan last season, who publicly thanked St. Louis for his kindness towards the community. The fan recalled a time when St. Louis had pulled off the road after a game to give autographs to fans (or something like that). The point remains St. Louis' kind attention to the community has endeared many fans to him.
But the elements that define Marty--his essence, perhaps--are the same things that draw us to cheer for Tampa Bay year after year. Marty St. Louis, similar to Tampa, is an unlikely tale. After an impressive amateur career, St. Louis was initially undrafted, until signing as a free agent with the Calgary Flames in 1998. Despite being less than average height, his career marks him as a calibered player, winning the MVP trophy in 2004, and this year winning the Lady Byng trophy, awarded to the league's most well-behaved player.
When speculation at the onset of the 2009-10 season questioned if a player of St. Louis' age could still play, St. Louis proved the opposite by totaling three points and six assists in the first five games (St. Petersburg Times). At the close of the season, his record included 29 goals and 94 points, only one less than Steven Stamkos.
And isn't it true that the unlikely story of St. Louis is much like the presence of the Tampa Bay Lightning, or rather, Southern hockey in general. This line of reasoning makes St. Louis a sort of archetype for Tampa Bay, meaning only one thing: we can't do without him.
It seems that Yzerman agrees, not only because of the $22.5 million contract offered to St. Louis:
"Today is a great day for the Lightning organization," Yzerman said. "Marty means so much to this franchise, both on and off the ice. His hard work and dedication are unsurpassed and we are thrilled that he will finish his career here in Tampa Bay." (Bright House Sports)
And after all, it seems like happily ever after for Marty (or maybe just for Tampa Bay), who will get to play the majority of his career with the same organization:
"Not many players get to play with the same organization pretty much their whole career. When all is said and done, I can retire with (15) years in one city. I couldn't be happier to have the opportunity to retire as a Lightning player." (St. Petersburg Times)
It's exciting too, and not just because we get to keep him. With the ensuing stability, we're hoping that the next couple of years will be good, and for Marty, that's especially good when it's in Tampa:
"There is nothing like winning in Tampa. Tampa is great when you win." (St. Petersburg Times)