I feel like I should start this off by noting that I still have a lot of anger towards Martin St. Louis for the way he left the Lightning. The man I looked up to more than almost any other hockey player on the planet acted like a baby, demanded that everything be done his way even as he was walking out, and then tried to manipulate and guilt Tampa fans into forgiving him. It was not well done of him.
Still, a huge part of the reason that Marty's betrayal stings so hard even now is that Marty meant so much to the team, the franchise, and to hockey in Florida. He gave the Lightning quite a lot over his time here and that ought to be remembered even through our anger.
This goes beyond the goals and the charity appearances. It even goes beyond the Stanley Cup, although that's a huge part of the whole thing.
Martin St. Louis was for a very long time the identity of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fans saw themselves in him and through that were able to see the team. Hard work, skill, self-confidence, not giving up, all of that stuff we claim to value - he embodied that for a lot of people for a very long time.
And those things made the Lightning a team that fans could relate to and feel pride in, even through the lean times.
I admit that I came to the Lightning much more recently than many other fans, and I came to the Lightning through another player. But it was Marty who sealed the deal. It was Marty that made me fall in love with this team. As angry as I am over how he ended things, I still thank him for giving me this team.
On Wednesday, when Marty St. Louis plays his first game in Tampa since his temper tantrum, it's appropriate for the team to acknowledge the things he did for them. Acknowledging what went right doesn't require pretending that things didn't also go wrong. It doesn't require a forgiveness you may not feel ready to give. But it is the right thing to do.
It's probable that the team will do a tribute. Steve Yzerman runs a world-class organization and a world-class organization acknowledges those who contributed, even when it's tough to do so. But maybe that's just me projecting, the same way I did with Marty.
It's right for them to do something because letting that moment pass unremarked would be a shame. It won't ever come again. It won't wait until we've forgiven. We get one chance in life to decide what kind of people we want to be, and I hope that this franchise wants to be someone I can be proud of.
And when (if?) that video plays, I hope the fans understand what it means and that they don't boo or jeer for that brief space of time. I hope those in the arena take the opportunity to recognize that he gave Tampa something that is irreplaceable - pride - and that they appreciate that gift.
And then, once the puck drops, feel free to boo the shit out of him.