Little Big Man: Martin St. Louis

Little Big Men have always been a staple in the NHL.  You know the type: fast as the wind, nimble on their feet, quick with their hands, tough to play against.  Henri Richard, Marcel Dionne, Brian Gionta.

Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, standing tall at 5’9” and weighing 175 lbs., is today’s version of this phenomenon.  Two weeks after his 35th birthday, the right-winger was given a four-year, $22.5 million contract extension that will keep him in the Bolts’ organization through the 2014-15 season.

Locking Marty up was the first player priority of new G.M. Steve Yzerman.

(kaatiya/Flickr)

“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)

Looking back to the beginning of St. Louis’ pro career, no one could have predicted with certainty the outstanding success he has achieved.  His college career with the University of Vermont Catamounts was brilliant.  An NCAA all-star, he ended up the school’s all-time leading point scorer, with 267 points and was a Hobey Baker Award nominee for best college hockey player three years in a row.

Despite his numbers, he went undrafted and ended up in 1997-98 playing for the Cleveland Lumberjacks in the IHL.  In 1998 he signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames.  After an impressive stint with the St. John Flames in the AHL and a partial season with the Calgary club he was released at season’s end.  His diminutive size was always the question.

On July31, 2000 he signed with the Tampa Bay lightning and quickly became part of the core team that would make the long run to the Stanley Cup in 2003-2004.   Along with Vinnie Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Dave Andreychuk, Dan Boyle and Nikolai Khabibulin, St. Louis had led the charge to the Cup.  Scoring a total of 94 points he led the league in scoring  and became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to win, all in the same year, the Art Ross Trophy as highest scorer, the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the granddaddy of them all the Stanley Cup.

This past year he was teamed with former Number One draft pick Steven Stamkos and experienced a hard-earned resurgence in his career.  His 94 points (29 goals/65 assists) mirrored sophomore Stamkos’ 95 points (51 goals/ 44 assists) and led to his line mate winning  the Maurice Richard Trophy for most goals scored in a season, tied only by Sid Crosby.

Marty St. Louis’ career is a testament to the old hockey bromide “ Work hard, good things will happen.”  His first NHL All-Star Team was in the 2003-04 season.  He has played in two All-Star games since, in 2006-7 and 2009-10.  A member of Team Canada in three World Championships, he holds three silver medals.  The 2006 Olympic Team was a harsh disappointment when Canada lost to Russia in the semi-final round.

The Lady Byng Trophy is awarded each year to the player who best combines his hockey skills with gentlemanly behavior.  Having been nominated in five previous seasons  starting, he was finally rewarded this past June with the honors for this past season.

Marty, his wife Heather and their three kids have become part of the Tampa community where he is respected for the manner in which he treats everyone, especially the fans.  Since coming to Tampa Marty’s lifetime dreams have all been fulfilled.  With the recent turmoil in the management of the team, there was speculation that the end of the Lightning chapter of his career might be near.  That is now put to rest.

With new coach Guy Boucher on board, new ownership and a radical change in top management, the assistant captain looks forward to finishing his career in the uniform with a Lightning Bolt on his chest. At the press conference to announce his extension he had this to say:

“Since coming to Tampa in 2000, the goals for my playing career have evolved.  I have now enjoyed many team and personal accolades, the highlight being our 2004 Stanley Cup win.

Now the goal is to lead the Lightning back towards the top of the NHL while finishing my career here. My family and I would like to thank Steve and Mr. Vinik for giving us that opportunity. I will not let them or our fans in Tampa Bay down. We’ll do everything we can as a team to achieve at the highest levels again.”

Kevin Hunter

Kevin Hunter

Kevin Hunter

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