Marty’s Gone…& He Isn’t Coming Back
I remember waking up on March 5th to the news of Martin St. Louis departure from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though perhaps heightened by the intense emotional malleability one feels upon awakening, my shock and horror at this news left me both hurt and in a state of sorrow only hockey fans can truly know. Since then, I have endured the grief that comes with the loss of such a significant player – anger at him for abandoning the team, disappointment with Yzerman for not persuading him to stay, and, last of all, irritation.
We Lightning fans were simply irritated by the near childish manner St. Louis left Tampa. And when you consider the reason he left – I’m sure there were more than just one, but it was all triggered by Yzerman leaving St. Louis off the Team Canada roster for this year’s Olympic squad – our pre-conceived picture of St. Louis as heroic captain transforms into that of a nine-year old in a toy-store, kicking and screaming because his mother would let him get the overpriced squirt-gun.
But, let’s not derail Marty. He’s a respectable man. In fact, despite his actions, I’d still have to admit that St. Louis is an admirable role model for aspiring hockey players. He’s a fantastic husband and father (I applaud him for making his preferred team to be the New York Rangers because playing for them would entail more time with his wife and kids at his home in Connecticut). All around, Marty’s a great guy, he just made one decision that was a little iffy, but the departure’s negative attributes really resides in fans’ reactions to the news rather than the way the whole mess was handled itself.
This is all my personal opinion though, of course. Much has said all over the internet, both praising and damning Marty’s move, and I’m not here to tell you why he’s a bad guy, or why he’s an NHL Hero. I’m here to discuss something more present, a topic mentioned briefly and hotly on the Twitterverse and on other Hockey Discussion Forums, but one that hasn’t really been looked into either objectively or with much depth. Here is where we invoke the Hockey Gods, and address them as to whether St. Louis actions have deemed worthy of retribution in the form of the Rangers’ current performance during the Stanley Cup Finals – or if the lens of betrayal has simply harmed the Lightning fans point-of-view of Marty St. Louis.
The Case Against St. Louis
Hockey, at its heart, is a symbolic sport. Every breakaway holds separate, individual meaning. Every puck hitting twine is a goal scored at just the right time. Nothing occurs by accident in hockey. It’s as if the sport adhered to the same doctrine of predestination as Calvinists do within the Christian religion. Every season comes and goes, and along with it occur expected and unexpected triumphs as well as tragedies and horrors which leave analysts, fans, and writers shocked, staring at television or computer screens with our mouths gaped in horror.
The St. Louis-Callahan trade should be taken as such an event. Without notice (though not much surprise, considering the fact that Marty asked to be traded out of Tampa in 2009), the Lightning Captain was leaving his home for more than a decade. Supposedly, one of St. Louis motivations for moving out of Tampa Bay was to be put into a larger market. While it’s still true that the New York Rangers have a much larger hockey market than the Bolts do (I mean, what else do you expect from a state that’s virtually one giant swamp?), I hardly think market-size would truly determine where St. Louis played out the rest of his career.
In the end, St. Louis’ desire to move was fueled by being cut off the Canadian Olympic Team by his own General Manager. I’m not too sure what Yzerman’s motives for leaving St. Louis of the roster were, but I feel confident in saying that none of them were malicious. If anything, Yzerman, dealing with the massive amount of talent available at his fingertips, simply didn’t have enough room to fit St. Louis. Another possibility is that, already having superstar Steven Stamkos on the roster, Yzerman simply wanted to avoid any potential accusations of bias by placing too many Lightning players on the roster.
And, sure, St. Louis request came across as childish, but, that’s not what gets me as a Bolt fan. Obviously, when this trade was announced, Lightning fans everywhere were outraged. The pain and anger, however, wasn’t directed at Yzerman for allowing Marty to leave – if anything, Yzerman made sure that everyone knew he tried his best to keep St. Louis. All the fury came roaring from fans as fireball infernos, blasted towards St. Louis himself. In the face of this anger, St. Louis (and this is what personally made me clench my fists in anger) had the nerve to speak in front of the press as if he was hurt.
In an interview, St. Louis, when faced with accusations of disloyalty, responded with his own question: “Was there anyone more loyal than me?” Well, no. The Lightning have a short history compared to other hockey clubs like the New York Rangers, so it’s hard really to compare any sense of loyalty to another player. But, St. Louis’ past loyalty really shouldn’t define the consequences of his actions. The truth of the matter is that Martin St. Louis has, since leaving Tampa Bay, appeared as a different man. He onced claimed to be a “character kind of guy,” but, refusing to face the media after your team loses 3-0 in a Stanley Cup Final game, well there’s really not much character there.
It’s Time to Move On
Lastly, while this trade could be seen as just another one of those expected tragedies within the game of hockey, a horror we should see coming (the signs were there, we just had no idea what was happening at the time), it should not be looked at as a black spot in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If anything, it should be the beginning of a new tomorrow. We’ve had players change in the course of their career here before – i.e., the downward curve that is Vinny Lecavelier – and, luckily, Yzerman seems to know when said players begin to pull the rest of the team down with them.
Marty’s gone, but Stamkos is now captain. And, honestly, an aging Captain, especially one that brings dramatic baggage to the table, could only be harmful to an increasingly younger team. With St. Louis gone, the canvas of the Lightning’s identity can be re-shaped, re-arranged, and re-painted into something entirely new, a picture much more powerful than any remnants of the old Pre-Yzerman age.
But, Lightning fans must, above all else, accept our fate. St. Louis is gone, and while our hearts are broken, we must also remember to move on. He’s part of another club, wearing a different jersey on separate team. Eventually, this betrayal will be in the past. Though, today such betrayal is the source of some great jokes on Twitter, tomorrow it’ll be a lone memory in the string of incidents that composes Lightning history. Who knows, maybe Marty’s departure will be the Lightning’s biggest step forward – the lunging step forward in our race towards the Stanley Cup.
Martin St. Louis left us. But, he also left behind him plenty of memories. And in our anger, we must also remember that hockey is a game of symbols and myths. And in our suffering, we must remember that hockey is a game bigger than the players.